Are you having trouble getting students to participate in online discussions? Consider using other types of prompts in addition to the typical open-ended question. Maria Ammar, assistant English professor at Frederick Community College, uses the following prompts in her English as a second language course and recommends them for other types of courses:
Terence Favero begins where many teachers are with respect to review sessions. Students request them. Teachers don’t like to give up class time to essentially go over material they’ve already covered. It’s difficult to find a time that works for everyone—students don’t want to come in early, and professors don’t want to review at bedtime. Then there’s the issue of who shows up for the review session. Usually, it’s not the students who most need to be there. And finally, there’s how review sessions are generally structured. Students ask questions, which the professor answers, while the students take notes. Favero notes, “Rarely does this approach lead to deep learning or prepare students for an exam.” (p. 247)
One of the first and most difficult tasks an online instructor faces is how to establish the presence of a learning community. Learning in isolation may be possible, but it’s neither enjoyable nor complete, and many online students end up quitting or failing the course simply because they miss the classmate support that is readily available in face-to-face classes. To ignore the importance of peer learning and personal connection in any classroom, including those in which participants might not physically meet, is to deny the significance of social interaction in learning.
Although letting students work together on exam questions is still not a common instructional practice, it has been used more than might be expected and in a variety of ways. Sometimes students work together in groups; other times with a partner. Sometimes those groups are assembled by the instructor and sometimes students are allowed to select their partners or group members. Sometimes the groups share multiple exam experiences; other times they work collaboratively only once. Sometimes the group submits one exam with everyone in the group receiving that grade; other times students may talk about exam questions and answers but submit exams individually.
Student engagement is a popular topic and the overwhelming majority of the information on this topic is concentrated on the big issues of keeping students engaged, such as the importance of faculty presence in the classroom, adhering to deadlines and responding to students in a timely manner, and giving thorough feedback on assignments.
Given how difficult it is to get students to do their assigned reading, we continue to share strategies that encourage students to read, that develop their reading skills, and in this case, that also develop their abilities to work with others in groups.
Almost 25 years have passed since Chickering and Gamson offered seven principles for good instructional practices in undergraduate education. While the state of undergraduate education has evolved to some degree over that time, I think the seven principles still have a place in today’s collegiate classroom. Originally written to communicate best practices for face-to-face instruction, the principles translate well to the online classroom and can help to provide guidance for those of us designing courses to be taught online.
The Doceri interactive whiteboard and screencast recorder app, like the Splashtop app I reviewed earlier, is useful to anyone wishing to remotely control a projected image from a connected computer, make screen annotations on what is displayed (you can make the annotations on a displayed image or a whiteboard), and send your creation for others to see. The thing I liked the most about using Doceri is the ease with which recorded audio and screen annotations can be made and the ability to send/post the finished product to a LMS or similar system for students to access. This app can save you the expense associated with costly classroom whiteboards and the controls in the app are easy to navigate.
Almost everyone agrees that student presentations benefit the presenter in significant ways. By doing presentations, students learn how to speak in front a group, a broadly applicable professional skill. They learn how to prepare material for public presentation, and practice (especially with feedback) improves their speaking skills. But those of us who have students do presentations in class know there’s a downside—and that’s how the rest of the class responds to these presentations. When the teacher talks, students more or less have to pay attention, at least some of the time, but when their classmates present, they can be comatose. Not only does this make it more difficult for the presenter, it means the students listening are not likely having any sort of learning experience.
Whether you teach online, face-to-face, or blended/hybrid courses, podcasts can improve student learning, says Charles Morgan, chair of the mathematics department at Lock Haven University. Consider the following benefits: