Friday, December 18, 2009
Now that Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have embraced the mobile phone - and Apple has made the mobile phone a true mobile multimedia computing device - we as instructors have to accept the fact that our students are never far from their mobile friends, in or out of class. This video, first uploaded to YouTube in 2007, challenges teachers to incorporate texting assignments in their classrooms to help engage and motivate students. It suggests, for example, that you use class time to ask students to text someone outside of class and find out what they had for breakfast, what the weather is like where they are, and what they last purchased. Bonus points might be added for text messages that come from another country and/or in another language.
Marc Prensky believes we educators must incorporate cell phones into instruction. "Languages, literature, public speaking, writing, storytelling, and history are just a few of the subjects that are highly adaptable to voice-only technology." Texting adds the ability to "conduct pop quizzes or spelling or math tests, to poll students' opinions, to make learners aware of current events for class discussion (e.g., with messages from Cable News Network's Breaking News), and even to tutor students." He goes on: "Can we create programs, or even exams, that we hand out on memory cards for students to slip into their phones? Can homework and exams get marked and annotated automatically?...Can classes and schools (or subjects across those) be set up so that all classmates are permanently connected, and can pedagogies be constructed to take advantage of this?"
The number of text messages transmitted in the United States grew by more than 80 percent over the 12 months ended in June, 2009, to 135.2 billion per month. That number - 80 - is the average number of text messages each of your students sends every day. Along with sending messages, they're reading books, watching and uploading videos, voting on game shows, learning languages, and interacting with tutors. They're learning, in other words. And we're challenged to teach them in a language they understand.
Here's part of the new lingo, in case it shows up in your chat window:
! = I have a comment
10Q = Thank you
121 = One to one
404 = I haven't a clue.
411 = Information
511 = Too much information
::poof:: = I'm gone
AAK = Asleep at keyboard
AFC = Away from computer
AWHFY = Are we having fun yet?
(For more, check this link.)
Friday, December 11, 2009
I generally begin with my online students by discussing the boundaries of our online relationship. This includes how they are to communicate with me outside of class (e-mail and IM), and what rights of privacy I maintain for myself and will respect for them. I'm also careful about how much of my personal information I make available to them and try to establish the guidelines for what's fair play in our online relationships. Since there are institutional policies that apply, I discuss the college or university policies that apply to appropriate behavior online and acceptable uses of technology.
In a class, the instructor is not a peer, in the sense of being an equal of the students. Friendliness is important, but friendship is a stretch: the teacher calls the shots and assesses performance. The line may move in your online sessions, but it has to be drawn.
Discipline is important in the online classroom, just as it is face-to-face. When a student behaves unacceptably, either send a private message to that student immediately or pull them aside in a private chat room to discuss the infraction. Avoid public confrontations, since these smack of humiliation and are an abuse of power that will create more problems than they solve. Similarly, shouting does not solve noise issues online: use the technology to mute students or put yourself in lecture mode.
If you treat your students with respect, give them opportunities to shine in your classroom, provide them with acceptable and fair policies, and avoid negative discussions or complaining, they'll appreciate you as an instructor and reciprocate with positive learning and responses. You'll be their teacher and the learning experience will be a friend they'll look forward to revisiting.
Friday, October 30, 2009
"Multitasking" is a misnomer: we aren't really able to do several things at the same time. Joe Medina points this out on Brain Rules: although we can talk and breathe at the same time, we can't really read a book and listen to a conversation simultaneously. What we do, rather, is quickly switch from one task to another, and back again, and the speed with which we switch makes us think we're doing all of them at the same time. As I type this blog I'm listening to music, but the lyrics are escaping me until I pause long enough to give them my full attention.
We have the same problem as teachers. What should we as teachers do to keep students engaged? Should we set up rules that ban distractions? Are there attention-grabbing methods/tricks that work during those critical first five minutes of class? Can we recommend certain behaviors to our students to help them concentrate?
Here are a few suggestions, and (as always), I welcome yours:
- Remember the 10-minute rule (See Brain Rules). You have about 10 minutes to get and hold attention before you lose them. And once they're gone, it's tough to get them back.
- Don't blame students for having other things to do. We all have other obligations. Let them know how long you need them in your presentation/lecture, and don't keep them longer than that.
- Archive your session so students can return to it at a later time (or more than once) to catch up on what they missed while Oprah was talking.
- Work in engagement exercises, polls, and other interactive opportunities in your session. See previous posts for suggestions.
- Give each student a job to do during the class.
Friday, October 23, 2009
"Many learners are accustomed to using chat for recreational purposes which is often very informal and quickly composed without reflection. Effectively adopting chat for academic purposes requires structure and effective moderation of the discussion. As a synchronous tool, chat is usually one-to-many and involves all participants being online simultaneously and often has them interacting at the same time. Without time for reflection, some instructors have found it effective to prepare students in advance with specific questions or content for them to mull over before engaging in dialogue. As a one-to-one tool, many instructors are finding [chat] to be an effective tool for conducting virtual office hours and for providing more responsiveness to student requests." (Valencia University's Office of Information Technology)
The Valencia tutorial goes on to recommend these instructional practices for using chat in class:
- Inform learners of your expectations for how these tools will be used as part of the course.
- Outline the rules in your syllabus (i.e., no harsh language, no belittling of their fellow classmates, keeping their comments relevant to the topic).
- Decide what your objectives are for using chat. Ask how can using chat assist the learners in achieving the overall goals of the course.
- Prepare a focused topic in advance for each chat session.
- Monitor the dialogue to keep it on topic.
- Consider the number of students that can be meaningfully involved in chat.
- Establish a protocol so that learners will know when another has completed their message (i.e. ask learners to add an asterisk * at the end of their sentence).
- Be aware of those who tend not to participate. Is it due to a technological or skill problem? Some learners can type very quickly while others type quite slowly. This may affect the frequency of all learner's participation. If nonparticipation seems to be attributed to neither technological problems or typing skills, is there a way to draw them into the chat?
- Summarize the major points at the end of the chat session.
- Quizzes. Ask a question orally and invite students to answer using the chat tool. This can be done individually or as a group (depending on the size of the group). This type of "spot" quiz is very useful for assessing the real learning that's taken place, and can be used at any time during a teaching session.
- Brainstorming. This is similar to quizzing your students, in that you're using this technique to gain insights into what your students are thinking. But in this case, you're not necessarily looking for a specific answer to the questions or ideas you pose: you're trying to get students to think for themselves and express their ideas.
- Group work. Break up a large class into smaller groups in breakout rooms so that the chat window does not overfill with information. Then, encourage your students to use the chat window to discuss a question and/or work together on a project.
- Debriefing. Chat can be an effective way to make sure students "got" what you said and accomplished what they were supposed to accomplish. What went well, and what needs improvement?
Lisa Weber and Jennifer Lieberman observe that "chat often has a negative reputation because of its potential to become chaotic since students and faculty communicating simultaneously can obscure the message and make following a conversation difficult.." They suggest some intriguing uses of chat for language instruction, including language partner exchanges, grammar review, dynamic language practice, error analysis, and non-intrusive correction. With minor modifications, any of these suggestions could be applied to other subject matter.
Paying attention to chats from your students is a terrific way to monitor their engagement in the class and to modify your pacing or presentation accordingly. When three or more students suddenly start typing in the chat area while you're making a point, that's probably a good sign that something you said caused confusion or was missed. When there's a good deal of off-topic chat, you may have lost the class's attention; it's time to bring them back into the mix with some interactive exercises.
Friday, October 9, 2009
I've had occasion to notice the progressions that instructors make as they master the tools of educational technology and apply them to pedagogical tasks. For example, a teacher who comes to Confer for the first time has an interactive whiteboard, which is the most obvious tool for presenting content to students. This instructor will begin by using the whiteboard only as a visual support, presenting static slides and accompanying them by narration. The whiteboard becomes, in essence, the online equivalent of a projector, and there is little or no effort to use it for conceptual development, interaction with students, or as a discussion stimulus.
After time, some instructors become comfortable enough with the Confer environment to use the whiteboard to solicit student responses. He/she may use the pointing tool to highlight some of the content, or allow students to draw or annotate the online slides. More and more, this instructor will use the whiteboard to challenge students to think by means of visual stimuli and verbal coaching.
Eventually, these instructors develop a new way of thinking about the whiteboard and its usefulness. They see ways to use it as an integral part of any online session with students, and they try to integrate its inherent interactivity into their lesson plans. They have developed an awareness both of the available techniques for annotation, drawing, and manipulating screen content and objects, and have become fluent in using these techniques. Now, they make sure that students - individually or collectively - react to and interact with the whiteboard content. They drag and drop students' annotations to match concepts, hide or reveal certain objects to engage questions, match objects or terms on the screen, or use freehand drawings to illustrate improvements or new approaches. The whiteboard becomes less and less a screen for displaying static content and increasingly a tool for prompting discussion, eliciting responses, developing ideas, and testing hypotheses. These instructors often develop their own content specifically for the whiteboard rather than displaying ready-made PowerPoints.
Gilly Salmon calls this latter kind of teaching "e-moderating" and maintains that it is the key to teaching and learning online. Salmon's five-stage model describes the ways both instructors (e-moderators) and learners progress in the online classroom: 1. Access and Motivation, in which the first challenges are to successfully login and make the visit worth the trouble; 2. Socialization, in which the challenges are to adapt to individual learner needs, provide bridges between old skills and new ones, and allow for individualized expression; 3. Information Exchange, which invites challenges and participation, encourages group tasks and roles, and is characterized by often "messy" communications; 4. Knowledge Construction, with much questioning, discussion, challenging, motivating, and interaction in order to build understanding; and 5. Development, in which the learners become independent critical thinkers, able to inject humor into the process, and able to reflect on what and how they have learned online.
Thankfully, I've been able to watch some of this progression among our Confer users, and to benefit from their experiences and insights. As these e-moderators emerge in our learning community, they'll help all of us to understand the developing online conferencing environment and how it can best enable learning and growth.
Friday, September 25, 2009
- Most importantly...something you are interested in.
- The question is open to research.
- You don't already know the answer, or have not already decided on the answer before doing the research.
- The question may have multiple possible answers when initially asked.
- It has a clear focus.
- The question should be reasonable.
- Try to avoid or rephrase questions which have a premise.
- Make sure you have defined all the terms in your question so you know exactly what you are asking.
- A new question can be asked once all your information is gathered.
- Having the right answer matters to you.
Friday, September 11, 2009
The World is Flat.
The world is changing at a rapid pace, and, as Eric Hoffer said, "in times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists." We cannot accurately predict what skills our students will need or jobs they will be required to do in future years. But we can - and must! - teach them to value learning, and to become adept at self-instruction.
One way to do this in the online classroom is to engage the class in a discussion of what learning is about. You might begin with the quote that opens this article, placing it on the whiteboard and inviting comments from students. You could then use the Web tool to take students to this synopsis of Friedman's book - or share the file using the file sharing tool.
Try some pointed questions, either with the entire class or by assigning them to groups in breakout rooms. What does "flat world" mean? What's the difference between "learning" and "learning to learn"? In a global workplace, why is it important to learn to learn?
Once this concept has been discussed and appreciated, tune in to your students' own abilities and preferences for learning. Try using the Polling tool to identify students' preferences for learning (e.g., A, Group work; B, Reading the text; C, Listening to lectures and taking notes; D, Discussion). Or use the VARK questionnaire to identify learning styles. These will help students identify their own preferences for taking in information visually, aurally, by reading and writing, kinesthetically, or multimodally. Once they've completed these questionnaires, take them to the VARK Helpsheets so they can plan their own "learning to learn" strategies.
Doing this early in the semester is a great way to prepare students - not only for your class, but for a lifetime of learning.
Friday, September 4, 2009
 Clark, R. C., and Kwinn, A. The New Virtual Classroom: Evidence-Based Guidelines for Synchronous e-Learning. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons, 1007, p. 57.
Friday, August 28, 2009
In the online classroom, there are many opportunities to allow your students' diverse approaches to learning free expression. Don't limit yourself or your class to only a single teaching or presentation style. Experiment, and pay attention to how students respond.
One of the strengths of a captured session (an archive) is that it allows students a chance to review at their own pace what you provide at the pace that suits you best. They can play and re-play the lecture or parts of it, taking notes or paying attention to specific words or actions to enrich their experience and understanding of what happened and what was communicated.
Shi and Morrow (2006) discovered that instructors felt the audio tool (which allows for voice interaction with online students) was an effective tool for reinforcing diverse learning styles. One effective way to use this tool is to explain visuals you're presenting on the whiteboard: instead of overloading working memory with visual graphics along with text, allow students to "see" the visual content you're presenting and "hear" your explanation. Similarly, allowing students who may be slow or reluctant typists to interact orally gives them options to communicate.
I've extolled the virtues of breakout rooms elsewhere. In this context, I'll posit that a breakout room provides enhanced opportunities for individual participation, since it reduces the size of the group of learners and makes online time more accessible to each student.
When you allow your students to use the chat tools, you provide them with more chances to communicate and you empower those students who may be shy about speaking up or being singled out. It's also a far less threatening way to raise questions than is speaking out and interrupting the instructor. Shi and Morrow also identified the chat tool as associated with diverse learning styles.
Remember, also, that captioning is available for students who are differently-abled. Providing a captioned session will help the hearing-impaired student participate in the live session and understand what happened in the archived session. It may also allow students who have difficulty understanding different speakers (e.g., non-native speakers) to follow conversations and discussions that happen during class.
Thank goodness for diverse students, and diverse tools they can use for learning!
Friday, August 21, 2009
2. I collect and read all the autobiographies and respond with personal notes of encouragement and/or verbal responses when appropriate. The fact that we are writing back and forth opens up a line of communication about each student in the context of the course.
3. I ask the students to sign a Success Contract which I sign outlining what I will do and what I expect them to do. I actually refer to it throughout the semester and remind them of their commitment to the course and themselves as well as to me.
4. I ask my students to do a written analysis of the 7 principles as they apply to math classes and cooperative learning. Number 6 often receives a lot of discussion because students are not used to hearing high expectation expressed about them. Again I write back explaining my thoughts and experiences. In a way this establishes a peer relation versus that of student and teacher.
5. When students are working in groups I resist providing quick answers and encourage them to seek answers themselves by relying on the abilities of their members. I comment that someone in the group will be able to find a solution and working together they will certainly be able to answer each members questions. It takes them a little while to get used to this but after they do they revel in each group members success.
6. At the end of each exam or assignment I ask students to comment on how they feel they are doing and how the class is going. I also ask if they have any suggestions for me which might improve the class. This is optional and not graded. It tells them that I respect and value their opinions.
7. I provide a lot of verbal encouragement throughout the semester...
9. I use a mastery approach to testing where I check exams for correct answers and return the papers for corrections during the exam... The emphasis is on understanding the problem, not the grade and all students become capable of obtaining a perfect test. The effect of this approach is to empower the students, create a positive assessment atmosphere and encourage the students to take more responsibility for their learning and success...
10. Cooperative learning techniques set high expectations of students. Students work in groups collaboratively in all my classes during every class session. I encourage them to help each other and express their opinions about their problem solutions. As they get comfortable with this approach and with their partners their self esteem grows and the expectations of what they can accomplish rises dramatically. People who previously approached math with great anxiety suddenly see themselves as tutor/teachers, not just recipients of someone else's knowledge. Cooperative learning carries with it a presumption that students can learn the material together and then demonstrate their abilities individually through a variety of assessment methods including exams, oral presentations, written assignments and working on the board.
11. During the semester I periodically survey the students to ask their opinion about how they feel the course is progressing. Is it meeting their expectations, what could I do to facilitate their learning, what could they do to help the class and themselves?
Friday, August 7, 2009
Time in the synchronous online classroom is critical. Students who wait for the instructor to load materials, prepare polls, or master the necessary technologies will be diverted by other distractions (e.g., e-mails, Facebook feeds, private chat messages) and may not be able to focus once the instructor is ready. This puts a burden on the online instructor to prepare delivery as well as content so as to minimize delays and control time in the online classroom. With Confer, using the Plan tool - which allows you to pre-load multimedia content, polls, quizzes, slides, and Web pages - is an excellent way to manage the pace of your instruction.
It's also your responsibility as the instructor to reinforce time on task in your classroom. Students need help in learning effective time management, and you can provide this by giving them realistic time expectations during the class. The "Timer" tool - which presents a visible running clock on the desktop of each participant - is a great option in this context. Give students a task - for example, list what you know or think about X issue - and set the clock for five minutes, with an audible alarm option selected. This lets the students know that they have a job to do, in a limited amount of time, and that the "clock is ticking" for them to accomplish the job.
You can also help your students by reminding them of deadlines throughout your teaching. Use part of your lecture time to post reminders on the Whiteboard, or post announcements in the Chat area (you can post an announcement message here that pops up with an audible alert). These messages help students organize their time and focus on their required work.
One tool that helps reduce the time students sometimes squander searching for assignments or syllabi is the File Transfer tool. Using this simple tool, you can transfer your assignments to every student (even those who are viewing your archived session) in real time. This eliminates the concern that your Course Management System may be down when students are trying to access assignments, or that they won't be able to find the assignments you've posted. "Hand out" the assignments in real time, and let students know when and how you expect them to be completed.
Speaking of archives, remember that your recorded sessions can be paused and resumed. It's a good idea in longer class sessions to allow for breaks and to pause the recording so that viewers of the archive don't have to navigate through "dead time" to find the point where you resumed teaching.
Carl Sandburg wrote, "Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you." This applies to students as well as instructors, in all learning environments.
Friday, July 31, 2009
"Knowing what you know and don't know focuses learning. Students need appropriate feedback on performance to benefit from courses. When getting started, students need help in assessing existing knowledge and competence. In classes, students need frequent opportunities to perform and receive suggestions for improvement. At various points during college, and at the end, students need chances to reflect on what they have learned, what they still need to know, and how to assess themselves." (Chickering and Gamson)
If your students come to the online classroom with no clues from you about how well (or poorly) they're doing, they may well wonder why they're coming at all. There are plenty of available tools for impromptu and/or formal assessment, and you should make it a point to use them often.
The breakout rooms, for example, are a perfect resource for allowing individuals or groups to complete self-paced exercises you make available or to take quizzes you administer or deliver to the rooms. Another innovative use of breakout rooms, suggested by Clark and Kwinn, is to set up trios in breakout rooms for role-play exercises, with one of the three acting as an observer. "Guidelines for conducting the role play can be posted on the white board, and the observer can take notes in chat as the role play proceeds and give feedback via audio or white board following the role play exercise.” Note that this technique gives the prompt feedback delivery method to the students, rather than to the instructor.
The chat tool is effective for informal, individualized feedback during an online session. You can send private messages of encouragement or admonishment without distracting the other students or embarrassing your targets. Even a public "Bravo!" in the chat window allows students to know that you're paying attention and that they're on the right track. Another feature of the chat tool is that it can provide your students with a non-threatening way to pose questions or communicate other needs with you. Students who are reluctant to speak up in class sometimes find it easier to communicate in the chat area, and it's almost always true that if one student aks a question, others have it in their minds.
The use of polls is a terrific option for providing prompt feedback. Although you generally have to prepare your polls ahead of time, it doesn't really take much more than a few seconds to type a poll on the whiteboard and deliver it to your students ad hoc. It's often a good idea to hide the polling results until all participants have responded to ensure honest feedback from the students. You should also remember that you can guage your students even without structured poll responses (i.e., "yes/no" or "A, B, C, D, E"). The whiteboard can be used to pose a question and allow students to type their own responses - either on the whiteboard itself or in the chat area. Doing this often - throughout the class - helps ensure that you're on track with your students and that they're keeping up with you. Remember, though: don't ask a question and ignore the results. Students don't appreciate being ignored.
The emoticons (smiley face, frown, applause, etc.) are also useful feedback tools. You can use them to silently appraise your students, and you can also allow your students to use them to give you a "pulse" on the class. Jonathan Finkelstein advises, “When someone else is speaking, have your mouse near the emotion indicators. Get in the habit of clicking on an emoticon as a participant is speaking or typing to express your reaction. These real-time cues can provide the encouragement and confidence a learner needs.”
Chopeta Lyons suggests that at the end of a class session, use an "instant feedback" whiteboard to allow students to reflect and analyze. Divide the screen down the middle and put a plus on one side and a minus on the other. Students can then type comments anonymously in either or both columns.
How about you?
Friday, July 24, 2009
"Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves. " (- Chickering and Gamson)
In our study of Web conferencing for instruction, Shufang Shi and I found that instructors associated application sharing with the pedagogical principle of active learning more than they did any other tool in the Confer toolset. But if you use application sharing only to demonstrate to students, you're cheating them out of rich online learning opportunities. Make your session interactive by allowing students to complete pre-designed exercises, giving them cursor and desktop control. If you pass control from student to student, allowing them to complete steps in a problem or series of problems, your entire class will pay attention. The process itself - not just segments of the process or individual parts - will be absorbed. One caveat: students aren't always able to understand what they're seeing in application sharing sessions. You may want to explain who's got control of the screen, where they should be looking to find the cursor, or how to navigate at a pace that refreshes the screen on all students' screens without being disorienting.
I've mentioned the value of breakout rooms in a previous note. At least one other strategic advantage is that you can facilitate more active learning in small groups than in large ones. Groups of three-to-five participants will demonstrate greater individual participation than will large online classrooms.
The Chat tool can also be used to ensure active learning. Students find it difficult to listen actively: so do instructors. Move them to the chat area for discussion of a topic in order to re-engage them and to break up the content delivery. Polling students - forcing them to make decisions about the learning content - also encourages active learning.The Whiteboard's drawing and annotation tools are a wonderful resource for reinforcing active learning. Don't just present your visuals: engage students in them. Instead of simply describing a chart or graphic to the class, ask students to type their reactions - either in the chat area or (if space allows) directly on the whiteboard itself. You can even design visuals with "cartoon balloons" or other cues to encourage and support class annotations.
I'm sure there are hundreds of other ways you use to encourage active learning. Tell us about them!
Friday, July 17, 2009
"Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort that a solo race. Good learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. Working with others often increases involvement in learning. Sharing one's own ideas and responding to others' reactions sharpens thinking and deepens understanding. " (Chickering and Gamson)
If your Confer class is large, consider using the Breakout Rooms feature. Virtual “rooms” can be created into which you can distribute participants, and from which you can return them at will. This tool allows small groups of learners to work together or hold a discussion in which everyone has ample opportunity to participate.
As Ruth Clark observes, “Spending a few minutes in a breakout room allows a group of three to five participants to actively engage with each other in ways that can lead to greater individual participation and consequent learning.” For one thing, there are less voices to contend with, so each student's audio time is more accessible. For another, research seems to indicate that group cohesion is a by-product of this kind of virtual separation and group formation.
Like every educational tool, though, breakout rooms are only effective if they're used appropriately. Since we know that this feature is designed to facilitate collaboration, we should use it to promote group activities: create a situation in which "students introduce each other, work on homework, problems, projects, research, brainstorming, and other related activities in small groups and then share the materials from the group sessions with the rest of the students” (Zeina Nehme).
Assign a group leader and/or a group scribe before you send students to breakout rooms. The scribe can enter group responses on the whiteboard and summarize group discussions when everyone reconvenes. Find a student who's comfortable using the Confer technology and ask them to lead in the breakout room.
Remember that your ability to control what happens in the online classroom will be compromised when you send students into breakout rooms. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN ahead of time to make sure you haven't introduced chaos into your well-ordered session. Create your breakout rooms ahead of the session, with all relevant information pre-loaded. Explain everything to the students before you send them into their rooms, and even consider having technical and exercise instructions on a file you transfer to them so that there are no misunderstandings. Migrate between rooms so you can be sure students are interacting and collaborating as you would hope.
Jennifer Hoffman recommends these participant "ground rules":
- If you run into technical problems, contact the facilitator or producer. Don’t waste a lot of time trying to solve them yourselves.
- Assign someone to manage the exercise, someone to capture information, and someone to report back to the larger group.
- Don’t leave the breakout session just because the trainer isn’t "watching' you.
- When using collaboration tools within the breakout rooms (whiteboard, chat, application sharing, web browsing) the ground rules for those tools apply.
I'm interested in how you use (or why you don't use) the breakout rooms feature. Feel free to share your experience here.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Monday, May 11, 2009
1. Encourages student-faculty contact
2. Encourages cooperation among students
3. Encourages active learning
4. Gives prompt feedback
5. Emphasizes time on task
6. Communicates high expectations
7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning
I’ve been lately interested in how these principles are applied in the online Confer environment. For example, how does one use CCC Confer to encourage the first principle, student-faculty contact? What tools are most appropriate for this goal, and what practices or techniques reinforce the principle best? Are these equivalent to traditional classroom practices, or does the online environment change the way this principle is supported?
In the traditional classroom environment, student-faculty contact is encouraged by:
- office hours in which students can meet with faculty one-on-one or in small, informal groups
- allowing for in-class discourse (raising hands, seeking student feedback or input)
- telephone or e-mail accessibility
We could (and I hope to in future writings) continue down the list and ask ourselves whether or not the Confer environment favors good practice, as defined by each of the principles. I’m of the opinion that each of these principles can be reinforced in the Confer classroom, but that we have to find appropriate and effective ways of using the available tools. For example, is the audio tool (voice) the best one to encourage student-faculty contact? Not necessarily, according to research. Jennifer Hoffman and Zeina Nehme suggest that some students are more comfortable chatting than talking in the virtual classroom. And, since text chat can be saved, the instructor can go back later to answer questions or provide feedback to students even after the class session.
That’s the kind of thing I’ve been thinking about lately. What about you?