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Online Courses

Engagement Strategies: Online Classes

The use of active learning pedagogies in online education should include cooperative online learning, problem solving, case studies, questions/answers, allowance for formulating questions of their own, discussion, explanation, and/or debate.  Good interactivity should allow students the opportunity to constantly analyze, puzzle over significance, search for explanations, and speculations. 

The virtual classroom does not permit visual cues to online learner’s level of engagement, therefore, consideration of student learning styles, differing online learning designs and effective deliberate planning approaches should be considered when formulating engagement strategies, which foster active learning in an online course. Online educators can benefit from introducing Web 2.0 concepts into their classes. Three major benefits are:

1) Active Learning

Don’t just make your students sit back and read a blog or listen to a podcast—get them to create their own! They may already know how to anyway. This is not to say that the instructor should not blog or publish podcasts.  Instructors should lead the way and show their students how to make an effective educational blog or podcast.

2) Collaboration

Web 2.0 is all about people working together—so get your students in groups!  There are several advantages for students as well as the instructor—including learning how to work with others and assisting each other in the learning process—when they don’t understand difficult concepts.

3) Contributing to Global Knowledge

The foundation of the Web 2.0 revolution is that users can now contribute to web sites.  So get your students out on to those sites (blogs, news journals, wikis, etc.), contributing knowledge to others. Turn your students into instructors. Give them a list of sites that you want to see them participating in for your class.

So where to start? There are millions of sites that have already joined the Web 2.0 world.  The first place to start is to search for blogs and/or wikis about your subject field.  Google is a great place to start searching for some of these sites (look up your field and then see the “external links” section at the bottom of the entry).

As online collaboration tools go, there are many sites out there for any specific purpose you may want to use and new websites start every week. The best idea is to pick one that has been around for longer, even if it is missing some of the cooler “gee-whiz” features of one of the newer sites. Older sites usually have less bugs and less chance of disappearing suddenly over night (they have built up a support base; where as newer sites may lose funding if they don’t “make it”).

Collaborative Learning Designs (Asynchronous and Synchronous)

Blackboard Collaborate:  A tool that allows your students to chat in groups or one-on-one, share and work on documents simultaneously all inside the Blackboard environment. See UTA Blackboard resources to get started, and view the Blackboard Collaborate demo. Blackboard collaborate features include:

  • Virtual classrooms
  • Virtual office hours
  • Peer-to-peer learning
  • Chat and Instant Messaging
  • Meeting spaces via Adobe Connect

Collaboration “In the Cloud”: The following list of applications provide different types of collaboration online:

  • Google+: Google+ makes connecting on the web more like connecting in the real world. Share your thoughts, links and photos with the right circles. Use easy, spontaneous video chat to strike up conversations with as many as nine people at once. Get everyone on the same page with fast, simple group chat.
  • Voice Thread: Voice Thread gives users the ability to collaborate asynchronously leaving voice messages and sharing documents to others in the group. This can also be use to have an asynchronous “guest speaker” presentation in voice thread and students can then listen to the presentation on their own time and post comments/questions to which the speaker can respond.
  • Wikis: A wiki is an online collaboration tool, which allow users to make contributions and update content on the fly. It keeps a running list of updates as to changes made to documents and acts as a repository for content added to the wiki environment.  There are several great wiki environments available.  We’ve linked to PBWorks.

Presentation Techniques: Beyond PowerPoint

Prezi is a presentation tool, which allows the user an unlimited canvas to present their material. In addition, the information presented can be moved in a variety of directions and emphasis can be created in a number of ways other than the standard bolding of text. Watch a demonstration of Prezi to unveil the possibilities of actively engaging your students with this tool.

Individual or Group Project Formats

Online Journals also known as WeB logs (Blogs): Dr. Debra DeWitte has taught her award-winning course, ART 1301 online at UTA for a number of years. She incoporates a blog-based group project, in which student groups highlight art pieces on a blog and allow fellow students to comment on each other’s blog presentations. She has found this approach to be quite successful, and students to be more engaged in the course material.

  • UTA Blogs: At UTA we have a blog server, which provides a blog space to every student and professor on campus. To get started go to UTA Blogs.
  • Ideas for Course Blog Use: UMW blogs have the most diverse use of blogging in higher education we’ve seen. If you click on the “courses” link at the top of the UMW blog page, you will see a list of sample courses currently being offered to students, which you can view.

Resources

TXProfDev.org: Professional Development Modules Also contains modules on the following topics: Critical Thinking, Foreign Language Teaching Methods, Reading Comprehension, Making Decisions with Data, and Understanding Data Analysis