This time of year is always one of the most difficult times for students to focus on their studies. In the online classroom it can be an especially challenging to keep students engaged, serious, and committed to assignments and deadlines. For while students in the face-to-face classroom know they must be in X classroom on Y days at Z time each week—no matter the month—the casual setup of the online classroom can bust wide open if not addressed during these holiday months.
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During the past year or so the poor economy has forced everyone to do more with less. Now it’s almost December and we’re in the thick of the end-of-semester crunch … with the pressures of the holiday season closing in fast. Feeling a little stressed?
The two nurse educators who authored the article referenced below begin with a quote from the first page of Stephen Brookfield’s book Becoming a Critical Reflective Teacher. “One of the hardest things teachers have to learn is that the sincerity of their intentions does not guarantee the purity of their practice.”
Some students are reluctant to enroll in online courses, afraid they will miss some of the social aspects of the face-to-face classroom. For these students, it makes sense to incorporate online synchronous sessions to provide some of the benefits of the face-to-face class while maintaining most of the flexibility of an asynchronous online course.
Meaningful online discussions that promote learning and build community usually do not happen spontaneously. They require planning, good use of questioning techniques, and incentives for student participation.
Do you challenge students to think about why they’re taking a course? Most faculty are discouraged by the very common “because it’s required” response. Equally discouraging is what students hope to get out of a course. Sometimes they seem perplexed by the question! The answer is so obvious—they want an A.
In order to be part of an effective learning community, online learners need to feel the presence of the instructor and fellow learners. Jane Dwyer, a senior lecturer at Rivier College, uses the following techniques to create this sense of social presence in her online psychology courses:
As a very young teacher, I remember pulling all-nighters to get my students’ essays back within the one-week limit I set for myself. Even in those days this “cram grading” was miserable and exhausting; but now at 50—especially with the added responsibilities of husband, father, and homeowner—this style of grading papers is all but impossible.
“Do we really need to buy the textbook? It’s so expensive!”
“Can’t you just summarize it for us?”
“Would you just tell us what parts will be on the exam?”
“It was so long and so boring. I couldn’t get through it!”