Best Practices in Online Teaching Strategies

Best Practices in Online Teaching Strategies 10
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1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600 Washington, DC 20004 P 202.756.2971 F 866.808.6585 www.hanoverresearch.com Best Practices in Online Teaching Strategies In the following report, The Hanover Research Council reviews the best practice teaching strategies in the field of online education. MARKET EVALUATION SURVEYING DATA ANALYSIS BENCHMARKING INNOVATIVE PRACTICES LITERATURE REVIEW HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009 Introduction In February 2002, The Times Educational Supplement reported that ―there is growing evidence from research in e-learning that certain strategies…will enhance teaching 1 and learning - just as certain tactics and strategies do work in face-to-face pedagogy.‖ The article emphasized that successful e-learning must involve ―a mixture of course design issues and pedagogical issues.‖ In order to entice students to participate, a course must offer ―group activities, structure, stimuli, cajoling by tutors and 2 peers…and a purpose or a reason to go online.‖ The importance of instructional strategies to the success of the online environment has precipitated the creation of best practices guidelines for all aspects of the instructional process, including the planning and management of online instruction, online teaching techniques, and online student assessment and evaluation techniques. This report reviews the current literature on successful strategies for online teaching in the following sections:  Section One: Overview of the Principles, Guidelines, and Benchmarks for Online Education: This section leads into a discussion of specific best practices for online teaching with a review of the variety of guidelines and principles of online education. Special emphasis is placed on current and future trends in effective online pedagogy.  Section Two: Best Practices in Online Teaching Strategies: This section reviews proven strategies for three major components of the instructional process: the planning and management of online instruction, the actual teaching process, and student assessment and evaluation.  Section Three: An Exemplary Program and Examples of Effective Practices: The final section provides examples of an award-winning online education program and the teaching practices of three award-winning instructors. 1 Vic Lally and Jerry Wallington, ―Enticing E-learning,‖ The Times Educational Supplement, February 8, 2002, Pg.23 2 Ibid. 2 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009 Section One: Overview of the Principles, Guidelines, and Benchmarks for Online Education Numerous educational agencies, from those that focus solely on online education, 3 4 such as the Sloan Consortium, to the Institute for Higher Education Policy, have provided general guidelines and benchmarks for online education. In particular, the Sloan Consortium is nationally recognized as a resource for online education through its annual Sloan-C awards for programs and instructors that have made ―outstanding 5 contributions to the field of online learning.‖ As a beginning to our discussion of best practice online teaching strategies, we profile one of the winners of the Sloan Consortium‘s Award for Excellence in Online Teaching as a case study example of 6 recommended teaching strategies in action. In 2003, the Consortium presented Bill Pelz, a Professor of Psychology at Herkimer County Community College, with the award. Pelz shared his three ―Principles of Effective Online Pedagogy‖ in a 2004 report. 7 Pelz‘s first principle is to ―let the students do (most of) the work.‖ As he asserts, ―the more ‗quality‘ time students spend engaged in content, the more of that content they learn.‖ Pelz provides specific examples of activities for which the students do 8 the work while the professor provides support:  Student Led Discussions  Students Find and Discuss Web Resources  Students Help Each Other Learn (Peer Assistance)  Students Grade Their Own Homework Assignments  Case Study Analysis The second principle is that ―interactivity is the heart and soul of effective asynchronous learning,‖ but Pelz stresses that interaction must stretch beyond simple 9 student discussion: Students can be required to interact with one another, with the professor, with the text, with the Internet, with the entire class, in small groups or teams, one-on-one with a partner, etc. In addition to discussing the course content, students can interact regarding assignments, problems to solve, case 3 For more information, please see: The Sloan Consortium. ―Home.‖ See http://www.sloan-c.org/ 4 For more information, please see: Institute for Higher Education Policy. ―Home.‖ See http://www.ihep.org/ 5 The Sloan Consortium. ―Home.‖ Op.cit. 6 For more information, please see: The Sloan Consortium. ―Sloan-C Awards.‖ See http://www.sloan- c.org/aboutus/awards.asp 7 Bill Pelz ―(My) Three Principles Of Effective Online Pedagogy,‖ Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Volume 8, Issue 3: June 2004. 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 3 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009 studies, lab activities, etc. Any course can be designed with required interactivity. Pelz‘s final principle is to ―strive for presence.‖ According to Pelz, there are three forms of presence for which to strive in online learning environments: Social Presence, Cognitive Presence, or Teaching Presence. These ideas are described in 10 detail in Pelz‘s report:  Social Presence: When participants in an online course help establish a community of learning by projecting their personal characteristics into the discussion — they present themselves as ―real people.‖ There are at least three forms of social presence: o Affective. The expression of emotion, feelings, and mood. o Interactive. Evidence of reading, attending, understanding, thinking about others‘ responses. o Cohesive. Responses that build and sustain a sense of ‗belongingness,‘ group commitment, or common goals and objectives  Cognitive Presence: The extent to which the professor and the students are able to construct and confirm meaning through sustained discourse (discussion) in a community of inquiry. o Cognitive presence can be demonstrated by introducing factual, conceptual, and theoretical knowledge into the discussion. o The value of such a response will depend upon the source, clarity, accuracy and comprehensiveness of the knowledge.  Teaching Presence: Teaching presence is the facilitation and direction of cognitive and social process for the realization of personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes. There are two ways that the professor and the students can add teaching presence to a discussion, as displayed in the following table. 10 Ibid. 4 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009 Figure 1.1: Components of Teaching Presence Facilitating the discussion Direct instruction  Identifying areas of agreement and disagreement  Presenting content and questions  Seeking to reach consensus /  Focusing the discussion understanding  Summarizing the discussion  Encouraging, acknowledging and  Confirming understanding reinforcing student contributions  Diagnosing misperceptions  Setting a climate for learning  Injecting knowledge from diverse sources  Drawing in participants / prompting  Responding to technical concerns discussion  Assessing the efficacy of the process Source: Bill Pelz ―(My) Three Principles Of Effective Online Pedagogy,‖ Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Volume 8, Issue 3: June 2004. Interestingly, these three principles: (1) engage student in content, (2) promote student-teacher and student-student interaction, and (3) strive for presence, are also found in literature regarding benchmarks and recommendations for successful online teaching. For instance, the Institute for Higher Education Policy‘s 2000 report of benchmarks for successful online education emphasizes interaction and engagement 11 in its best practices for online teaching/learning and course development: Online Teaching/Learning Benchmarks  Student interaction with faculty and other students is an essential characteristic and is facilitated through a variety of ways, including voice-mail and/or e-mail.  Feedback to student assignments and questions is constructive and provided in a timely manner.  Students are instructed in the proper methods of effective research, including assessment of the validity of resources. Course Development Benchmarks  Guidelines regarding minimum standards are used for course development, design, and delivery, while learning outcomes – not the availability of existing technology – determine the technology being used to deliver course content.  Instructional materials are reviewed periodically to ensure they meet program standards. 11 Quoted verbatim from: The Institute for Higher Education Policy, ―Quality on the Line: Benchmarks for Success in Internet-Based Distance Education,‖ April 2000. Pg. 2-3. See http://www2.nea.org/he/abouthe/images/Quality.pdf 5 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009  Courses are designed to require students to engage themselves in analysis, synthesis, and evaluation as part of their course and program requirements. Similarly, the Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration’s ―Checklist for Online Interactive Learning‖ (COIL), a best practice guideline for online faculty evaluation, emphasizes the importance of Pelz‘s principles of engagement, interaction, and 12 presence, particularly in Categories Two and Four, as reviewed in the figure below. Figure 1.2: Checklist for Online Interactive Learning (COIL) COIL Categories Category 1: Student Behaviors Meet Criterion Demonstrate their prerequisite technology skills at beginning are adequate for hardware, software and web site use. Seek opportunities to, and support for, interacting with instructor and other students. Actively participate in all online activities. Actively involved through writing and interaction in web-based courses (improves student writing performance). Use a variety of communication techniques to enhance online learning. Personalize themselves by publishing online biographies and photographs to allow other members of the class to visualize them. Seek assistance in understanding and mastering different learning strategies. Demonstrate prerequisites and become more proficient in technology communication skills. Category 2: Faculty-Student Interactions Provide clear and adequate guidance. Use action research regularly to evaluate the success/failure of the course and meet student concerns. Personalize communications by/with student-student and student-teacher. Use variety of communication techniques to provide for greater empathy and personal approach than e-mail and web site alone. Plan for increased time for student interactions as compared to traditional courses. Clearly delineate institutional policy on cheating and plagiarism at start of course. Maintain separate e-mail account for web courses. Forward responses to frequently asked questions to all students to avoid duplication. Give faculty reduced load and increased support to develop course materials. Provide students with continuous, frequent support, feedback. Scaffold virtual discourse construction. Emphasize importance of good study skills throughout course Closely monitor each student‘s progress. Create opportunities to coach and facilitate student construction of knowledge. Give negative comments to students privately, preferably by phone. Clearly delineate course requirements. 12 Thomas J. Tobin, ―Best Practices for Administrative Evaluation of Online Faculty,‖ Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. Volume 7, No 2., Summer 2004. See http://www.westga.edu/distance/ojdla/summer72/tobin72.html 6 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009 COIL Categories Category 3: Technology Support Insure a low level of technological difficulties in accessing web site and communication. Provide adequate, friendly, easy, continuous technical support. Category 4: Learning Environment Use structured activities to provide an effective framework for online learning. Mandate smaller class sizes for online courses to give faculty appropriate time to deliver quality instruction board. Use flexible deadlines to motivate students, maintain communication, and allow for technical problems. Create social interaction through group collaboration to facilitate high achievement. Use streaming audio for reading online Present course content in a manner that hierarchically structures the sequence of information. Organize web site to enable student to interact with the content, other students, and instructor. Create welcoming, safe, nurturing online environment. Present problem-solving situations in a realistic context. Provide opportunities for students to question instructor to insure accuracy of understanding. Create opportunities for students to communicate with each other to share understanding of course content. Provide opportunities to collaboratively construct knowledge based on multiple perspectives, discussion and reflection. Provide opportunities for students to articulate and revise their thinking to insure accuracy of knowledge construction. Ensure equitable environment exists for gender differences in learning styles, reduction of barriers to participation, and communication. Include cooperative and collaborative learning to distribute workload through group and support female students‘ preferred method of connected learning. Promote gender equality by encouraging females to post messages while asking males to subside if a pattern of male domination is noticed. Insure an equitable learning environment exists for all. Allow time for reflection at end of course. Include ―warm-up‖ period with light-hearted exercises aimed to help student get to know one another. Start online course with all students together at the same time. Provide equal access to the shared conversation in the course. Provide opportunities for students to control online learning and structure it for themselves. Provide discussion forums encouraging open and honest dialogue. Conduct a teleconference during and at the end of the course to discuss successes and problems. Use computer conferencing to develop overall critical thinking skills. Source: Thomas J. Tobin, ―Best Practices for Administrative Evaluation of Online Faculty.‖ Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. Volume 7, No 2. Summer 2004. Op.cit. Finally, Pelz‘s principles for online teaching are complimented by recommendations for the key characteristics used in effective online teaching, encapsulated in the acronym VOCAL (Visible, Organized, Compassionate, Analytical, and Leader-by- 13 example). Based on ten years of teaching experience in web-enhanced, blended 13 John R. Savery. ―Be VOCAL: Characteristics of Success Online Instructors.‖ Journal of Interactive Online Learning. 4:2, Fall 2005. Pg. 141. See http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/issues/PDF/4.2.6.pdf 7 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009 learning, and entirely online classrooms, VOCAL integrates the existing foundation of best practices with the design of learning environments that foster student 14 ownership. The five components of VOCAL are discussed in greater detail 15 below:  Visible: The online classroom differs from the traditional classroom in that text largely replaces in-person, face-to-face, verbal communication. This different dynamic makes it easier for students to feel as if the instructor is not participating in learning, thus making it more likely that students take a passive role as well. A lack of visibility may lead to students‘ critical attitudes of the instructor‘s effectiveness and lower levels of affective learning. Visibility can be demonstrated through public and private communication channels, such as: o A section of the course website with personal and professional information about the instructor. o Timely return of assignments and feedback. o Regular course website updates and postings, and well as regular updates to a shared assignment calendar. o Mass and personal email communications with all students.  Organized: Because online learners generally choose to take an online course because they assume it will provide more flexibility for their busy schedules, they also need to know what is expected of them so that they can organize their time to meet course requirements. This increased time management responsibility of the learner also means that there is an increased organization responsibility on the instructor. In order to meet the needs of students, it is suggested that online instructors: o Require students to take an online self-assessment and report what they think are the characteristics of a successful online student. o Prepare syllabus and assignment due dates carefully and well in advance so that students know what to expect and when. 14 Ibid. 15 Ibid. Pg. 142-149. 8 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009 o Prepare a documents of ―Do‘s and Don‘ts‖ for the course, including the rules of web etiquette, posting comments in discussion forums, and communicating concerns to the instructor. o Anticipate the need for a non-instructional venue for online discussions. o Use different formats for online resources and label each clearly so that students can select a format that is most useful to them (i.e. pdf, html, doc, ppt). o Fully use the capabilities of the available educational technology to enhance student learning.  Compassionate: Online environments can be surprisingly intimate, especially since email provides a combination of privacy and distance that does not exist in traditional classrooms. This intimacy increases the need for instructors to be compassionate of students‘ feelings and needs. This can be accomplished through: o Permission for students to communicate directly with the instructor. o Discussion forums in which students introduce themselves and provide personal information, or use ―ice-breaker‖ techniques to get students to share personal information with each other. o Reminding, if necessary, student of the class expectations of conduct, participation, and the instructor‘s response to unanticipated problems.  Analytical: Instructors need to manage the online learning assignment to ensure that students are completing assignments and achieving learning outcomes. This includes the timely return of assignments as well as the analysis of student data. While many course management systems provide tools for assessment and analysis, it is the instructor‘s responsibility to determine if the assessment if appropriate to the subject. Suggested strategies include: o The use of smaller and more frequent assignments throughout the course to reduce test anxiety and provide learners with opportunities to process course concepts and content. o The use of satellite offices, if possible, to administer face-to-face exams. o Specify the format and file naming conventions for assignments submitted online to help easily organize and alphabetize assignments. 9 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009 o Provide opportunities for students to provide feedback on the course. o Provide clear expectations and guidelines for assessing participation.  Leader-by-Example: The online instructor sets the tone for student performance through teacher-student interactions. Consequently, instructors should attempt to model best practice strategies to assist student learning. Ways in which instructors can model good online learning and behavior include: o Introductions in which the instructors shares personal information with students both formally and informally. o Model responsibility by returning assignments within the communicated established time period. o Model the right way students should communicate online. o Use public and private communication to ensure visibility. o Plan for and implement an activity at the end of the course that brings closure to the class, reinforces what was learning, and acknowledges the contributions of students. Not only are variations on these three best practice principles of online teaching highlighted in current recommendations – they are also integrated into projections of pedagogical techniques in online teaching which will be used in the coming decade. For instance, a survey of instructors and administrators in postsecondary institutions primarily belonging to the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) and the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications (WCET) estimated that the following teaching strategies, in 16 order of importance, will play a significant role in the future of online teaching. It is interesting to note the continued importance of interactivity in online instruction, as seen in elements such as group problem-solving and collaborative tasks, coaching or mentoring, and discussion.  Group problem-solving and collaborative tasks;  Problem-based learning;  Discussion; 16 Kyong-Jee Kim and Curtis Bonk, ―The Future of Online Teaching and Learning in Higher Education,‖ Educause Quarterly, Number 4, 2006. See http://connect.educause.edu/Library/EDUCAUSE+Quarterly/TheFutureofOnlineTeaching/40000?time=122702 5492 10 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009  Case-based strategies;  Simulations or role play;  Student-generated content;  Coaching or mentoring;  Guided learning;  Exploratory or discovery;  Lecturing or teacher-directed activities;  Modeling of the solution process; and  Socratic questioning. The next section of this report will review in greater detail the use of the previously discussed principles of best practice online teaching as they relate to each component of the instructional process. 11 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009 Section Two: Best Practices in Online Teaching Strategies The literature regarding best practices in online teaching strategies can be organized into three major components of the instructional process: (1) planning and development, (2) teaching in action, and (3) student assessment and data evaluation. Together, these three components significantly influence the effectiveness of the online environment, making it especially important that instructors are aware of best practice teaching strategies, discussed in the following sections. 2.1: Best Practices in Planning and Development One of the most important elements of planning and managing online courses is instructors‘ recognition of the fact that although there are a wide array of educational technologies and course management tools available for online teaching, not all of these technologies are appropriate matches to the subject taught and the teacher‘s pedagogical style and strategies. As such, it is very important that instructors ensure that pedagogical principles drive the use of technology rather than the other way around. Instructors must strive to achieve certain learning standards, regardless of 17 the medium through which they are teaching. Because of this, course planning should take place before instructors select the technology and course management 18 system that will be used for the course. The first step in the planning process involves the development of learning objectives. The importance of learning objective development and communication is highlighted throughout the literature, including Park University‘s guidelines for the 19 creation of learning objectives:  Behavior: Learning objectives should be written in terms of observable behavioral outcomes. Clear, targeted verbs should be used to communicate with students the expected outcomes of learning activities.  Student-Centered: All learning objectives should focus on the student. Effective objectives explain expectation for student behavior, performance, and understanding.  Conditions: Learning objectives should be specific and should target one aspect of understanding. The conditions of the objective include the tools, references, and/or aids that will be provided to the student. 17 Richard Ascough. ―Designing for Online Distance Education: Putting Pedagogy Before Technology.‖ Teaching Theology & Religion. Volume 5, No 1. 2002. Pg. 17. See http://post.queensu.ca/rsa/2002_TTR_Ascough.pdf 18 Ibid. 19 Park University. ―Faculty Resources Quick Tips: Learning Objectives – Guidelines for Writing Effective Learning Objectives.‖ See http://www.park.edu/cetl/quicktips/writinglearningobj.html 12 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009  Standards: Each learning objective should be measurable and should include the criteria for student assessment. Standards are important because they both inform students of performance expectations while providing insight as to how these expectations will be measured. Following the development of clearly defined learning objectives and the special needs of students (e.g. consideration of the needs of students with disabilities or visual impairments if they are enrolled in the course), instructors may begin to select the technological option best-suited for the course. It is important to note, however, that although there is tremendous variety in the educational technologies available to online instructors, the field of distance learning technology is changing quickly, and it is therefore necessary for instructors and 20 administrators to keep a close eye on emerging trends and associated best practices. For example, the annual Horizon Report, a long-running qualitative research project that seeks to identify and describe emerging education technologies, projects that mobile technologies, cloud computing, geocoded data, personal web programs, semantic-aware applications, and smart objects will significantly impact the choices of 21 educational institutions within the next five years. While these six technologies in online education are still emerging as educational tools, online technologies such as web-pages, discussion forums, course management systems, audio tools, and video tools are well-entrenched in the field of online instruction. However, with each technology comes a number of planning considerations that are important for online instructors to reflect upon as they develop their courses and choose the most appropriate technologies. The University of Washington‘s ―Learning and Scholarly Technologies,‖ a website that provides a help center for online instructors, addresses a number of these 22 technological considerations, reviewed in the figure below. 20 th David Porter. ―Innovations, Trends, and Creativity in Distance Learning.‖ Paper presented at the 4 International Conference on Education and Technology – Inter-American University of Puerto Rico. September 7, 2006. Pg. 2. See http://www.bccampus.ca/Assets/BCcampus+Whitepapers/Innovations2c+Trends2c+and+Creativity+in+Dis tance+Learning+report.pdf 21 ―The Horizon Report: 2009 Edition.‖ Collaboration between the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative. Pg. 3-4. See http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2009-Horizon-Report.pdf 22 University of Washington Learning & Scholarly Technologies. ―Choose Technologies for Your Distance Learning Course.‖ See http://catalyst.washington.edu/help/teaching_guides/dltech_choices.html 13 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009 Figure 2.1.1: Considerations for Online Technologies Technology Option Planning Considerations  Gather all content in a single folder to save time when building the web page.  Consider specific web design patterns or other rules established by the department.  Organize content into sections (e.g. Syllabus, Assignments, Lecture schedule, Web Page: Allows teachers to easily etc.). Plan how you would like the pages to be organized and linked together. communicate information in a central This process should be started through the creation of a site map. location, update material, and to use the  Consider your audience‘s perspective: what information will students need? page as a portal for other technologies  Borrow ideas from other instructors (the World Lecture Hall is a good used in the class. resource).  Link to other resources, including the institution‘s library‘s electronic reserves.  Keep images small, but also consider issues of access for the visually impaired.  Direct students to necessary plug-ins or helper applications.  Teachers should keep in mind that text materials are static and may be less appropriate for teaching languages and visual concepts.  If using textbooks and readers, choose texts and readings that will be relevant and available over several years. If creating a course reader, ensure that there Print: One of the most inexpensive and is enough time to secure copyright permissions. accessible mediums for delivering distance  Printed course and study guides may be a good way to organize the content of learning course content. the course.  Workbooks can be used to supplement course materials or as self-guided courses.  Periodicals can be used to supplement distance learning course material. Course Readings on the Web: Provides students with 24-hour access to  Allows teachers to easily modify the reading list materials  Concept maps, flow charts and photos can make a website more accessible to students Images: Can be useful in communicating information that is  Determine the appropriate file format for pictures difficult to explain using text or audio  Economize file size with image resolution  Consider copyright issues The following audio devices may be used:  Telephone conferencing Audio: Provides flexibility to busy  Voice mail students  Audio tapes  Audio over the web  When planning the production of an instructional video, may want to consider Video: Allows for face-to-face the use of a storyboard and a script. interactions with students  Plan pre- and post-viewing activities for students Online discussion: Allows students to easily communicate with each other and Discussed in detail in a later section with the instructor Peer Review: Allows student to view Allows students to benefit from their peers while saving the instructor time in the same online document and submit providing feedback comments asynchronously Source: University of Washington Learning & Scholarly Technologies. ―Choose Technologies for Your Distance Learning Course.‖ Op.cit. 14 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009 One final yet very important factor that should be taken into consideration in the planning and development component of online teaching strategy is the need for the online courses to be delivered in such a way as to create a learning community among students and the instructor. Research shows that many of the instances in which distance education courses fail to promote student learning, the cause is students‘ sense of isolation or low level of self- 23 directedness. In order to combat this isolation factor, successful online courses develop established protocols for building, maintaining, and evaluating student-to- student and student-to-faculty interactions. Teaching methods including training in technology for distance learning students, interactive teaching that fosters critical dialogue, mentoring, cooperative peer learning, group out-of-class activities, and the use of e-mail or web announcements to inform students about opportunities for 24 interaction should be designed into the online course to enhance student learning. 2.2 Best Practices in Teaching-in-Action As discussed earlier in this report, the level of interaction among students and between students and the instructor is particularly important in online instruction. Distance education provides many opportunities to foster an interactive ―classroom,‖ including two of the most commonly used pedagogical techniques to promote interactivity: (1) online discussion forums and (2) student collaboration on 25 assignments. Online discussion forums are one of the best ways to facilitate interaction and learning in the online classroom, in part due to their ability to promote constructivist thinking (in which knowledge is constructed from personal experience), critical thinking, and higher-order thinking (thinking creatively and critically in a decision- making or problem-solving manner), all while distributing knowledge among all the 26 students in the class. Additionally, discussion is a relatively simple way to encourage interaction in the online environment. For example, interactive learning can be promoted through the use of email or electronic discussion tools, such as the University of Washington‘s Catalyst GoPost tool, a web-based discussion board where students can compare notes, discuss assignments, post attachments, or work together, and the Google platform, 23 Marshall Scott et. al. ―Innovations in Distance Learning Program Development and Delivery.‖ Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. Volume 6, No 2. Summer 2003. See http://www.westga.edu/distance/ojdla/summer62/schott62.html 24 Ibid. 25 University of Washington Learning & Scholarly Technologies. ―Help Center: Teaching a Distance Learning Course.‖ http://catalyst.washington.edu/help/planning/dl_teaching.html 26 Muilenburg, Lin and Berge, Zane L. ―A Framework for Designing Questions for Online Learning.‖ eModerators. See http://www.emoderators.com/moderators/muilenburg.html 15 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009 Wiki, a tool which allows individuals to create websites which can be viewed and 27 edited by site members. However, regardless of the technologies used, online discussion forums lose effectiveness without the development of thoughtful and relevant questions and instructor‘s moderation of responses. The following guidelines are recommended to promote the important element, constructivist thinking, in the online discussion and 28 pedagogy: 1) Pose a stimulating question, 2) Brainstorm answers to the question, 3) Compare ideas, and 4) Fuse to the curriculum. The first step in this process, ―Pose a stimulating question,‖ deserves special focus due to its important role in determining the direction of online discussion. As such, it is recommended that instructors consider the cognitive levels of the questions, the educational situation, the goals and objectives of the instruction, and the needs of the students when designing online discussion questions. A survey of the types of discussion questions used by online instructors revealed that the questions could be 29 grouped into the following categories:  Interest-getting and attention-getting questions: Example: "If you awakened in the year 2399, what is the first thing you would notice?"  Diagnosing and checking questions: Example: "Does anyone know Senge's five principles of a learning organization?"  Recall of specific facts or information questions: Example: "Who can name the main characters in Moby Dick?"  Managerial questions: Example: "Did you request an extension on the assignment due date?  Structure and redirect learning questions: Example: "Now that we have discussed the advantages of, and limitations to, formative evaluation, who can do the same for summative evaluation?" 27 University of Washington Learning & Scholarly Technologies. ―Help Center: Encourage Student Discussion.‖ See http://catalyst.washington.edu/help/teaching_guides/discuss.html 28 Muilenburg, Lin and Berge, Zane L. ―A Framework for Designing Questions for Online Learning.‖ eModerators. Op.cit. 29 Quoted verbatim from: Ibid. 16 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009  Allow expression of affect questions: Example: "How did you feel about our online guest's list of ten things trainers do to shoot themselves in the foot?"  Encourage higher level thought processes questions: Example: "Considering what you have read, and what was discussed in the posts this past week, can you summarize all the ways there are to overcome obstacles to effective teamwork?" During the discussion process, it is important that instructors continuously manage students‘ ideas and further facilitate interactions. However, if the online discussion is going well without instructor feedback, it is often best for teachers to wait to jump into the discussion until the students‘ responses are waning. At that point, it is recommended that instructors summarize key points or ask prompting questions to recharge the discussion. The second strategy to facilitate interactivity: ―encourage student collaboration,‖ relies on the use of educational technologies to simulate face-to-face meetings when 30 students work together on assignments. However, it should be noted that a review of the literature identified one study that found that while instructors perceive the learner-instructor and learner-learner interactions as key factors in quality online instruction, students‘ varied regarding 31 their opinion on whether interaction is important. The authors of the study suggest that this variance in student opinion is related to differences in learning style and personality, as well as students‘ lowered expectations of the quality of interaction in 32 online instruction. While these findings emphasize that instructors need to identify the needs of their students in online instruction, they also suggest that interaction is considered by both teachers and students to influence the effectiveness of instruction in a primarily positive way. Beyond these two major pedagogical strategies for enhancing the success of online teaching, Pennsylvania State University‘s World Campus, which offers more than 50 33 degree and certificate programs through distance and online education, provides a 34 detailed guide of best practices strategies and pedagogical advice for online teaching. Reviewed below, this guide provides a set of best practice recommendations and 30 University of Washington Learning & Scholarly Technologies. ―Help Center: Teaching a Distance Learning Course.‖ Op.cit. 31 Bude Su et. al. ―The Importance of Interaction in Web-Based Education: A Program-level Case Study of Online MBA Courses.‖ Journal of Interactive Online Learning. Volume 4, No 1. Summer 2005. Pg. 1. See http://www.ncolr.org/jiol/issues/PDF/4.1.1.pdf 32 Ibid. Pg. 14. 33 Pennsylvania State University World Campus. ―About Us: World Campus History.‖ See http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/AboutUs_History.shtml 34 For more information, please see: Connexions. ―Best Practices in Online Teaching.‖ http://cnx.org/content/col10453/1.2 17 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009 related strategies for the process of teaching, the majority of which directly compliment the literature asserting the need for interactivity, instructor presence, student collaboration, and the creation of a learning community. 35 Prepare Your Students for Learning Online Online instructors need to provide sufficient orientation for students regarding the technology and instructional methods used in the course. This can be accomplished by:  Posting a welcome message to help students get started.  Include a brief orientation for students to get familiar with the terminology and tools used in the course management system. (Example)  Provide contact information for technical help in a variety of places (syllabus, email, course announcement, etc.), as well as personal contact information, standard response times, and preferred communication methods.  Remind students to set up email forwarding to their preferred accounts. However, faculty and students should keep all course-related communications within the course management system to maintain confidentiality.  Provide online office hours as needed.  Structure the course by providing guidelines for participation and other policies to help students learn more effectively.  Provide resources and strategies for online learning and explain how online learning is different from classroom learning.  Include a Student FAQ with common questions about courses, registration, tuition, financial aid, course materials and software. 36 Specify Course Goals, Expectations, and Policies It is important to provide course goals, expectations, structure, and related course/departmental/institutional policies at the beginning of the course. These elements are commonly included in course syllabus, although they may be placed elsewhere. Important information includes: 35 Connexions. ―Best Practices in Online Teaching: Prepare Your Students for Learning Online.‖ See http://cnx.org/content/m14875/latest/ 36 Connexions. ―Best Practices in Online Teaching: Specify Course Goals, Expectations, and Policies.‖ http://cnx.org/content/m14874/latest/ 18 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009  Course goals and learning objectives, including a description of course structure.  Required and optional course materials or textbooks.  Clear and specific grading policies and academic integrity policies.  The guidelines for student participation and collaboration, including any recommendations for online communication (posting messages to online discussion boards, sending course email, etc.), policies for assignment submission and grading, and web etiquette guidelines for online courses. 37 Create a Warm and Inviting Atmosphere to Build a Learning Community A variety of literature asserts the need for online instructors to build learning communities that engage students. Learning communities can be built by:  Welcoming students before the course begins via email or course announcement. This welcome should be resent after the add/drop period ends.  Posting a personal introduction with an informal tone.  Providing lots of encouragement and support, particularly in the beginning of the course. This includes positive feedback administered to students privately by email.  Encouraging students to create their own homepage, or post a short self- introduction to the discussion forum. Alternatively students can be encouraged to develop a social space by creating a group inside or outside of the course site.  Uploading any relevant pictures to the course site, and encouraging students to do so as well. 38 Promote Active Learning The online teaching strategy should foster students‘ active, constructive participation in learning. This can be accomplished by instructors that: 37 Connexions. ―Best Practices in Online Teaching: Create a Warm and Inviting Atmosphere to Build and Learning Community.‖ http://cnx.org/content/m14877/latest/ 38 Connexions. ―Best Practices in Online Teaching: Promote Active Learning.‖ See http://cnx.org/content/m14977/latest/ 19 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice HANOVER RESEARCH JULY 2009  Emphasize to students the importance of learning by playing an active role in the learning process, a role which differs from the direct instruction or lecture in traditional classrooms.  Provide opportunities for students to critique and reflect upon certain course topics.  Encourage students to use the Internet for researching course topics, but remind them to be critical about the information they find and share.  Encourage students to be proactive learners by regularly logging into the course site, submitting assignments on-time, participating in discussions, and cooperating with teammates.  Provide opportunities for active problem solving and for team work.  Encourage the active participation in online discussion by designing provocative questions, encouraging students to respond to questions at a deeper level, and by pointing out any opposing perspectives.  Use multiple discussion formats, including small group discussions, ―buzz groups‖ (two people discuss topic for short period of time), case studies, team debates, ―jigsaw groups‖ where subgroups discuss parts of a topic and then collaborate on their findings, and role play. 39 Model Effective Online Interaction Instructors can model effective interaction through frequent interactions with students that:  Respond to student comments and questions within time frames set at the beginning of the course. Instructors make sure to notify students if these time frames change, or if they will be unavailable for some period during the semester.  Provide general feedback to the entire class on specific assignments or discussions, while at the same time providing individual encouragement and comments to students. Feedback on graded assignments should recognize good work and make suggestions for improvement. 39 Connexions. ―Best Practice in Online Teaching: Model Effective Online Interaction.‖ See http://cnx.org/content/m15030/latest/ 20 © 2009 The Hanover Research Council – Academy Administration Practice

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