As more and more courses go online, interaction and knowledge building among students rely primarily on asynchronous threaded discussions. For something that is so central to online learning, current research and literature have provided instructors with little support as to how they can facilitate and maintain high-quality conversations among students in these learning environments. This article responds to this need by offering three strategies instructors can use to ensure educationally valuable talk in their online classes.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
We are bombarded with information about online course supplements and the newest interactive multimedia components, all touted as the best approach to engage today’s learners in the online environment. Dedicated practitioners puzzle over how, when, and where to incorporate multimedia within their online courses and further agonize over the potential effects of choosing not to do so.
The number of adjunct faculty teaching at colleges and universities continues to rise dramatically. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 44 percent of faculty and instructional staff at all institutions in fall 2003 were part-time employees compared with 33 percent in 1987, the first year of data collection.
I bring a box to the first day of class — especially if it’s a course with beginning students. At precisely the time class starts, I walk into the room with my box filled with random, quirky objects. I like to include a small Alf doll, a pad of Post-its, some scissors, perhaps a can of Slim-Fast, a candle, a rock, a comb, and maybe six or seven other objects indiscriminately gathered as I leave for class. As soon as I enter the room, I put the box on the table; take each article out; place it on the table; and finally, when all of them are out, return them to the box. Then I ask the students to take out a piece of paper and write down as many of the items as they can remember.
A common phrase uttered during the first day of class is: “You will be graded on class participation.” As instructors we know what we expect. But what exactly do our students think we mean by that statement? The longer I’ve taught the more I’ve come to realize that students may not really know.
The problem of academic dishonesty has become one of staggering proportions. In a recent paper on the subject, Robert Kitahara, assistant professor in the business programs at Troy University, and co-author Frederick Westfall, associate professor and regional chair of business programs for Troy University, detail a growing problem in distance learning in which students cheat on tests and assignments, then seek redress for wrongs against them when they are caught.
Social presence is an important concept in distance education. So, how can we increase social presence in online teaching? Here are some ideas for you to try.
I’ve been teaching online since 2001. I’ve always felt a certain sense of excitement when discussing philosophies, pedagogy, or instructional strategies with others and creating active, energetic online classrooms. So it was disheartening when I “hit a wall” and things started to feel really monotonous.
Sometimes we are so concerned with following our lesson plans to the letter that we miss what is truly important: teaching moments. A teacher has to learn to listen to his or her class and realize when the moment to abandon the lesson plan has come. This willingness to release some control over the class and allow it to develop more or less organically does not always come easily, however. Goal-induced anxiety can make a teacher reluctant to let go of the reins out of fear that the class will go off in some random direction.
As a college student, I always liked it when I had a course that met in Edwards Hall – if for no other reason than a lot of the classrooms in that building had theater-style seating with chairs that swiveled. The fact that I would remember that after all of these years is an indication of the effect a more welcoming learning space can have on students.