While more and more students are enrolling in online courses, not all of them are pleased with this format for learning. Although universities and colleges are now the primary educational institutions to offer students the opportunity to earn a degree online, K-12 schools are gradually jumping in and giving students the option to take some of their courses online. Lesley’s Educational Technology Master’s Degree program has been available in a totally online format since 1997. As a result, faculty members who teach in this program have learned a lot about students’ needs and effective ways to support students in their quest to learn. We want to be sure that we are modeling best practices so that our students, most of whom are K-12 educators, will have an optimal online learning experience and use these practices with their own students when they teach online. We also have an Advanced Professional Certificate in Online Teaching. For this certificate it is particularly important that we provide the best possible online teaching methods. But do we know the full story? Probably not, since we know there is always more to learn. Some of the literature can help give us guidance. For example, Carlson and Jesseman (2011) found that students enrolled in a blended course liked to be able to “craft responses before posting them online.” They also felt that getting to know the instructor and classmates was important - something that happened in the face-to-face portion of the class. Delivery methods in an asynchronous online course was investigated by Smith (2013). Some of his results indicated that course content should be delivered through multimedia and that students prefer short videos or presentations, no more than approximately 30 minutes long and videos that are focused on one topic. In my course about teaching online I ask students to share their thoughts about facilitating online discussion and community building. Dr. Patricia Fidalgo and I have collected a great deal of information about student thoughts and attitudes and are currently writing a paper about this. Preliminary results show that students unanimously indicate that community building in a totally online course is important. Other issues of concern that are frequently mentioned are having some assignments completed in a group or with a partner, having some synchronous interaction and being able to learn from other students. Many felt that students are able to share, risk and learn more when they feel safe and have a sense that they are respected. When we asked students about what an instructor should do to facilitate a successful discussion three suggestions were on the top of the list. The instructor should model responses and interactions, be prepared and very familiar with course materials and ask thought provoking questions. Please respond to the following questions by commenting on this blog.
Carlson, J. & Jesseman, D. (2011). Have we asked them yet? Graduate student preferences for web-enhanced learning. Quarterly Review of Distance Education. 12 (2), 125-134.Smith, D.W. (2012). Listening to the Learner: Graduate Teacher Education Students.MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 9(4), 489-499.