By: Amy Peterson
The convenience and flexibility of the online learning environment allows learners to develop new skills and further their education, regardless of where they live. However, for all of its benefits, online learning can sometimes feel isolating for students and faculty. The question is: how do you build a sense of community in your online courses? One approach involves cultivating more interaction—between you and your students and among the students themselves. Here are five practical tips for increasing the human connection in your online classrooms.
When online courses are completely asynchronous, there is often limited interaction between you and your students and class members with each other. Consider, for example, that real-time conversations don’t occur during a video lecture, when you post announcements, or when students post on a discussion board. That lag in response time kills the momentum of a back-and-forth discussion and can sometimes lead to misunderstandings.
Integrating opportunities for real-time interaction into your online course can help change that and develop a sense of community in a course. Consider how impromptu conversations outside the traditional classroom forge relationships, clarify ideas, and spark new insights. You can facilitate these interactions by setting up opportunities for class members to meet online synchronously both formally and informally. Using web conferencing applications, you can create a variety of synchronous interaction opportunities, such as office hours, small group discussions, whole class discussions, and study groups.
Discussion boards have long been the communication staple for online courses, but there are ways you can make this experience more interactive for much wider and deeper participation. In a traditional classroom, it’s common for only a small percentage of students to participate in discussion. In an online environment, you can structure your discussions so that everyone contributes, plus they’ll have more time to consider what they want to say before responding. Class size helps determine how you organize discussions. In a larger class of, say, 100 students, you can set up smaller discussion groups of 20 or so people so that students can get to know their fellow classmates. You can also create even smaller groups (5-7 people) for more intimate interaction, and rotate these groups to expand interactions. This approach also works with smaller class sizes.
One technique that fosters richer dialogue is creating discussion prompts that are open ended, such as requiring students to provide examples or asking them to interpret a concept from a variety of perspectives. You could also set up student-facilitated discussion opportunities where students craft the discussion prompt and guide the ensuing dialogue.
Non-task interactions are those exchanges that are not part of the direct learning, but help create a supportive learning community. You can facilitate these types of interactions by leveraging the social networking capabilities that are available in many learning management systems, such as chat and web conferencing. Using the group functionality, students can create special interest groups or study groups. If your LMS doesn’t have the functionality to support a social network, you can still create one with a private Facebook page or one of the many group messaging apps available, such as Telegram and Slack.
Of important note, academic social networks require planning and ongoing maintenance. The value of the social network needs to be explicit before it will become a common destination. Many schools begin by asking students to create bios and add profile pictures, but these activities alone will not encourage students to keep coming back to the network. Techniques for transforming the social network into a destination include frequently updating content (on a weekly or if possible daily basis) and incorporating contributions to the social network into classes (e.g. using the social network tools for group work; asking students to post their discussion contributions into their social network feed).
You’re not alone in wanting to increase and enhance student engagement and interaction. For example, schools can create a program-wide social network that allows students to continue their relationships with other students from course to course. Within this private social network, the administrators and support staff can use direct messages, announcements, and live events to enhance student engagement in the program.
This sort of institutional support is not necessary, however, for your class to be interactive. In addition to external social networking tools, such as Facebook, Telegram, Slack, and WhatsApp, students can meet each other in real time on Skype and Google Hangouts. Preprogrammed communication, such as introductory videos, content presentation, and email, are still important components of online learning, but student interaction can take the learning further, faster.
A tech tool is only as good as you the way you use it from a pedagogical perspective. When you move a face-to-face course online, or create an online course from scratch, consider how interaction will support the learning goals in your course. By enhancing the opportunities for interaction in your online classrooms, you can take an already powerful learning opportunity to the next level for all of your students.
Amy Peterson is senior vice president of course design, development and academic research at Pearson. She has more than 15 years of experience developing online and hybrid courses and learning experiences for dozens of universities and colleges.
Newly hired faculty may review the self-paced lessons provided here for a rudimentary orientation to using Blackboard to provide their syllabi and course content to students. Please be advised that the lessons provided here are NOT a substitute for completing the three (3) Blackboard training courses.
To get started, Blackboard Quick Start Training for New Hires.
Rules of netiquette are general expectations of behavior that promote effective communication and positive experiences when working with others online. In your courses, you will likely use a combination of web-based tools for communicating with students, instructors, college services, and potential employers.
To help faculty and students learn about netiquette for online learning, we have assembled these resources. Please take a look and feel free to share them with your students.
All semester classes are given a course shell in Blackboard through an automated process that starts with Course Scheduling and INFOnline. At minimum, faculty are required to add their course syllabi to their course sections in Blackboard and make them available to students.
However, you may use your course sites to facilitate communication, provide frequent grade feedback, and share supplemental materials with students. We recommend that faculty perform these best practices to support all students in their learning.
Use your course’s tools for sharing files and links to instructional content with students. Be sure to explain how content and activities connect to learning objectives.
Use your course’s Announcements tool to notify students of course events and schedule
reminders. Be sure to check your MATC Gmail frequently. Reply to student email within 24 to 48 hours of receipt.
To foster a sense of community and open communication, create a Discussion Board forum in the course for students to post questions they may have as the course progresses. Respond to student questions in the forum, but also direct students to reply to their peers.
Use your course’s Grade Center to post grades and feedback. Communicate to students the expected turn-around time for grades. It is a best practice to provide grades and feedback to students one (1) week after students submit their work. Showing Grades to Students through the My Grades tool allows students to monitor their progress throughout the course.
Share these support resources with students in your courses:
|11 ½ Free Tools for Testing Website Accessibility
In this webinar, David Berman, the #1 rated speaker on the topic of web accessibility standards as well as an international expert in the field, will share with you the best tools his team uses when auditing and testing websites and documents. Having an excellent test regimen is a crucial part of online accessibility, and David has found the best tools to fit your workflow, platforms, and competencies… so you don’t have to!
With recent lawsuits in higher education and updates to Section 508 on the horizon, it is more important than ever that online learning content be made accessible to students with disabilities. In this webinar, Janet Sylvia, Web Accessibility Group Leader and Web Accessibility Trainer, will provide you with 10 tips for making your online course material accessible.
In this webinar, Jason Stark from the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP) and Cindy Camp from Pepnet 2 will go over DCMP’s captioning guidelines and preferred techniques that will help you produce captions that are accurate, consistent, clear, readable, and equal.
This webinar will discuss how the principles of universal and inclusive design can be applied to the online learning environment, with a particular focus on the accessibility of course content and materials.
In this webinar, Christopher Soran, the Interim eLearning Director at Tacoma Community College, along with Ari Bixhorn from Panopto and Lily Bond from 3Play Media, will discuss how you can implement accessible lecture capture at your university. Looking at Tacoma’s workflow, they will walk you through an efficient, cost-effective way to manage closed captioning for lecture capture at a university level.
Watch this webinar to learn the basics of how to add closed captions to online video to make it fully accessible, searchable, and SEO-friendly. This webinar covers Section 508 and ADA accessibility compliance, creation of closed captions, explanation of caption formats and video player compatibility, as well as an overview of automated workflows and integration with lecture capture and video platforms.
|Creating and Using Effective Rubrics|
|Presented by Susan M. Brookhart, Ph.D., Consultant, Brookhart Enterprises LLC|
|Wednesday, Apr. 29 at 2 p.m. Central Time
|This webinar will focus on creating or adapting rubrics for classroom use. The session will emphasize:
Participants will learn how to write criteria and performance level descriptions that assess student learning. Just like the task itself, rubrics must match the learning outcomes they are intended to assess. Too often, criteria in rubrics examine surface level features of student performance or the requirements of an assignment. In contrast, effective rubrics employ criteria that look for qualities in student work that indicate the quality of student learning. The webinar will share principles for writing such effective rubrics and provide examples to critique. Participants will learn how to assess “following directions for the assignment” separately, for example with a checklist. Finally, participants will learn five strategies for involving students in using rubrics to support: shared learning targets, student self-reflection and self-assessment, teacher feedback, peer feedback, and student goal setting.
Susan M. Brookhart, Ph.D., is an education consultant based in Helena, Montana, U.S.A. She currently works with teachers, schools, districts, universities, and states in the area of classroom assessment. She has been a classroom teacher and a professor and department chair in the School of Education at Duquesne University, where she currently is an adjunct faculty member. Her interests include the role of both formative and summative classroom assessment in student motivation and achievement, the connection between classroom assessment and large-scale assessment, and grading. She has written or co-authored sixteen books and over 70 articles on assessment.
Join the live session at the scheduled time at: www.instantpres
This webinar is sponsored by Triumph Learning.
Free Online Event: Personalize Classroom Learning
Are you looking to personalize learning in the classroom to address the diverse needs of all your students? This free event is for you!
Join and learn from experienced educators the ins and outs of managing and thriving in your Personalized Classroom. Whether you are currently using techniques to personalize learning, or hope to in the future, this free event is a must-attend.
|6 Live Webinars:
For more information about on Crisis De-escalation of Violent and Aggressive Students or other topics, visit www.ncherm.org/services/consultation/on-site-workshops/#crisisde-escalation.
MATC is a member of NaBITA.org: National Behavioral Intervention Team Association
Free Webinar January 30, 2014 at 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM CST
At the end of each semester, instructors teaching within Blackboard must perform a series of tasks called the “End of the Semester Process”. This process is helpful for preserving a full record of an instructor’s Blackboard course content, Grade Center, and student work in an archive file.