Standard 3: Active learning, participation and collaboration
The instructor knows and understands the value of active learning, participation, and collaboration within the online classroom, and applies this knowledge to the design of his/her course.
The instructor incorporates a variety of tools that support interaction and community;
The instructor promotes active learning through collaborative activities;
The instructor facilitates and monitors appropriate student-student interactions;
The instructor fosters an environment that welcomes and engages each individual learner.
Reflection One of the biggest complaints students have when they take an online class, from what I've heard and experienced and read, is that they feel isolated—on their own. Yes, physically students are alone when they engage in an online class, yet; but a skilled instructor always finds ways to counter this feeling by creating a sense of community and interaction. Without engagement and involvement, even in a F2F course, the class will lag. In some ways this can feel like a challenge in a writing course because writing is such a private experience. Yet, the writing (and reading) process should be highly social, especially in developmental classes. At the end of the day, regardless of ones pedagogical positioning when it comes to writing, the entire point of writing is to be understood and to generate a conversation. That's why I facilitate activities using writing forums, Facebook discussions, peer response activities and quizzes. And, additionally, I don't want all the work to be on me! I try to set my class up in such a way so that students are supporting each other and using one another as resources. There are so many benefits that are triggered when a student makes a connection with someone else in the room. This lowers the anxiety; it creates a positive atmosphere; and it creates networks of support.
Artifacts Writing Forums Like most other online English instructors, I create weekly writing assignments that require students to correspond with one another. While I give them specific criteria for their initial response or post, I also explain that they need to move the conversation forward by interacting with one another, usually by responding to a question or by issuing a fruitful question to another classmate. In some instances the interaction sparks deep discussion that helps students with reading comprehension and prewriting steps; but in other instances, the conversation is lighter and serves to create bridges of support and motivation.
Facebook Class Site Because most students are actively using social media, I typically create a Facebook class site where students can share ideas, ask questions and collaborate. The Facebook Class Site also allows me to provide documents that students can upload, and I can provide useful links that are timely, free and instrumental in teaching key concepts. While the below example just shows a correspondence between myself and a student, all of the other students can view the conversation and weigh in. Here a student is reaching out for help regarding an assigned reading. I expect that students will struggle with different sections of text...I only hope that I am providing them with ways to get their questions answered and understand a text on a deep level. I do my best here to shed some insight on the passage she cites.
Collaborative Feedback Using Turnitin/Peer Response Student feedback is another means of formative assessment that I utilize through turnitin that generates collaboration and involvement. Below is a picture of a student's draft along with written feedback from a classmate. I develop the questions, and each student has to review two papers and respond to the questions to get full credit. In addition to responding to my questions, student reviewers can include their own separate comments. In some instances, a student's work improves dramatically as a result of the insights another students shared.
Blackboard Quizzes Another means of checking to see if students are understanding and doing the assigned readings is to create quizzes in Blackboard. While this is a traditional means of assessment, it keeps students accountable and requires that they stay involved and actively learn. With blackboard quizzes I have all kinds of options, such as allowing the students to take the quiz multiple times or setting up a timer that provides a limit. I can do multiple choice or fill in the blank or use other types of question and response methods. Later, in other activities, such as Blackboard forums, I can build on the concepts from the quiz and ask students to do a collaborative discussion.
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