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.
|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.
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Event: 20 Free iPad Apps Educators Can’t Live Without
|There are thousands of free iPad Apps out there, but finding the perfect ones for you
can be tough. The Simple K12 team has spent hours searching for the best-of-the-best, free iPad Apps for Educators, and they’re sharing all of them with you in this webinar!
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Respondus LockDown Browser is a custom browser used by hundreds of institutions to lock down a computer during an online exam. When using LockDown Browser, students can’t print, copy, visit other websites, or use other applications during an online test.
These sessions will include an overview and demonstration of LockDown Browser. There will also be a brief overview of Respondus Monitor. Please note: MATC will not adopt Respondus Monitor.
This comprehensive training webinar is intended for instructors who plan to use LockDown Browser and/or Respondus Monitor with online exams. The session is 45 minutes, plus a Q&A period at the end. Lockdown Browser integrates with Blackboard, Desire2Learn, Moodle, Sakai, and ANGEL.
Webinar Description: Setting up a quality course in Blackboard Learn is as easy as 1, 2, 3! In this webinar, we will discuss simple ways in which faculty can easily transform their empty Blackboard shells into a student-centered environment. This process involves identifying your course tools, organizing the course menu, and standardizing your learning module format.
|Presenter:||Jessica Rosazza Williams, Distance Learning Specialist/Course Designer and Part-time Faculty, Central New Mexico Community College|
|Location:||Web Conferencing using Blackboard Collaborate|
|Date:||4/07/2014 12:00:00 PM (Central Time (US & Canada))|
CmapTools: Integrating, Teaching, Learning, and Evaluation in Online Courses
Teaching, learning, and evaluation in online courses offer unique and exciting challenges for instructors. Not only is it necessary to find new teaching strategies but it’s essential that instructors find new ways to facilitate student learning. Concept maps (Novak, 1998) are one strategy that can promote teaching, learning, and evaluation in online environments.
Concept Maps are pictures or graphical representations that learners draw to depict their understanding of the meaning of a set of concepts. They use the maps to link new learning to what they already know. One of the ways adults learn is in analyzing their own experiences and linking them to the new information they are learning. In this way, the maps offer learners and instructors an opportunity to share, discuss, and revise their understanding of concepts, propositions, and the relationships between new and existing knowledge. One way to use concept maps to promote learning is to have students construct concept maps of the course readings [throughout the course]. Students pick a reading that piques their interest in a particular topic and maps out the reading as a way to understand it.
CmapTools can be incorporated into any course taught online for adult learners. It is a relatively easy program for students to install and learn http://cmap.ihmc.us.
Novak, J. Learning, Creating and Using Knowledge: Concept Maps as Facilitative Tools in Schools and Corporations. Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum, 1998.