5 Ways to Make Your Online Classrooms More Interactive

Faculty Focus | Higher Ed Teaching & Learning

By: Amy Peterson

The convenience and flexibility of the online learning environment allows learners to develop new skills and further their education, regardless of where they live. However, for all of its benefits, online learning can sometimes feel isolating for students and faculty. The question is: how do you build a sense of community in your online courses? One approach involves cultivating more interaction—between you and your students and among the students themselves. Here are five practical tips for increasing the human connection in your online classrooms.

1. Integrate real-time interaction

college student sitting outside with laptopWhen online courses are completely asynchronous, there is often limited interaction between you and your students and class members with each other. Consider, for example, that real-time conversations don’t occur during a video lecture, when you post announcements, or when students post on a discussion board. That lag in response time kills the momentum of a back-and-forth discussion and can sometimes lead to misunderstandings.

Integrating opportunities for real-time interaction into your online course can help change that and develop a sense of community in a course. Consider how impromptu conversations outside the traditional classroom forge relationships, clarify ideas, and spark new insights. You can facilitate these interactions by setting up opportunities for class members to meet online synchronously both formally and informally. Using web conferencing applications, you can create a variety of synchronous interaction opportunities, such as office hours, small group discussions, whole class discussions, and study groups.

2. Get creative with discussion boards

Discussion boards have long been the communication staple for online courses, but there are ways you can make this experience more interactive for much wider and deeper participation. In a traditional classroom, it’s common for only a small percentage of students to participate in discussion. In an online environment, you can structure your discussions so that everyone contributes, plus they’ll have more time to consider what they want to say before responding. Class size helps determine how you organize discussions. In a larger class of, say, 100 students, you can set up smaller discussion groups of 20 or so people so that students can get to know their fellow classmates. You can also create even smaller groups (5-7 people) for more intimate interaction, and rotate these groups to expand interactions. This approach also works with smaller class sizes.

One technique that fosters richer dialogue is creating discussion prompts that are open ended, such as requiring students to provide examples or asking them to interpret a concept from a variety of perspectives. You could also set up student-facilitated discussion opportunities where students craft the discussion prompt and guide the ensuing dialogue.

3. Maximize engagement with non-task interaction

Non-task interactions are those exchanges that are not part of the direct learning, but help create a supportive learning community. You can facilitate these types of interactions by leveraging the social networking capabilities that are available in many learning management systems, such as chat and web conferencing. Using the group functionality, students can create special interest groups or study groups. If your LMS doesn’t have the functionality to support a social network, you can still create one with a private Facebook page or one of the many group messaging apps available, such as Telegram and Slack.

information overload computer keyOf important note, academic social networks require planning and ongoing maintenance. The value of the social network needs to be explicit before it will become a common destination. Many schools begin by asking students to create bios and add profile pictures, but these activities alone will not encourage students to keep coming back to the network. Techniques for transforming the social network into a destination include frequently updating content (on a weekly or if possible daily basis) and incorporating contributions to the social network into classes (e.g. using the social network tools for group work; asking students to post their discussion contributions into their social network feed).

4. Use multiple communication tools

You’re not alone in wanting to increase and enhance student engagement and interaction. For example, schools can create a program-wide social network that allows students to continue their relationships with other students from course to course. Within this private social network, the administrators and support staff can use direct messages, announcements, and live events to enhance student engagement in the program.

This sort of institutional support is not necessary, however, for your class to be interactive. In addition to external social networking tools, such as Facebook, Telegram, Slack, and WhatsApp, students can meet each other in real time on Skype and Google Hangouts. Preprogrammed communication, such as introductory videos, content presentation, and email, are still important components of online learning, but student interaction can take the learning further, faster.

5. Have a plan around the tool

A tech tool is only as good as you the way you use it from a pedagogical perspective. When you move a face-to-face course online, or create an online course from scratch, consider how interaction will support the learning goals in your course. By enhancing the opportunities for interaction in your online classrooms, you can take an already powerful learning opportunity to the next level for all of your students.

Amy Peterson is senior vice president of course design, development and academic research at Pearson. She has more than 15 years of experience developing online and hybrid courses and learning experiences for dozens of universities and colleges.

Prevent Cheating During Exams with Respondus

Instructor Trainings with Respondus

This September, attend a 45-minute training session on how to effectively use Respondus applications for online testing. Learn how to create online assessments with Respondus 4, or see how to prevent cheating during online exams using LockDown Browser.

Sign up today to learn how to use these applications!

LockDown Browser & Respondus Monitor: Prevent Cheating During Online Exams

Tuesday, September 13 at 2pm CT

Wednesday, September 28 at 1pm CT

Respondus 4.0: Create & Manage Exam Content

Thursday, September 8 at 1pm CT

Google Apps Updates – Calendar

 

Launch of Reminders for Google Calendar on the web

Google has announced that Reminders are now available in Google Calendar on the web.
New features:
Set a reminder for a specific time and date and get notified when it’s time. To create a reminder, tap on a time in the calendar grid, then select “Reminder.”
  • Reminders carry forward to the next day, until you mark them done. To mark a reminder as done, simply click on the reminder, and click ‘Mark as done’.
  • Reminders created in the Google app, Keep, and Inbox will also show in Google Calendar.
  • Reminders on the web will sync to your Google Calendar Android and iOS apps.

Please note:

  • Reminders are private to calendar owners and are not viewable, even if your calendar is shared with others.
  • Google Tasks users will not be prompted to use the Reminders feature. It can be enabled from the drop down menu on the Tasks calendar.

 

Announcing the 2016 Student Technology Conference

 

The second annual Student Technology Conference, a free one-day online event bringing together students, educators and innovators from around the world, will be held Saturday, January 30, 2016 from 9 Am to 9 Pm EST. We invite all to attend!

The Student Technology Conference provides an international forum for the presentation, discussion and sharing of educational technology in schools and other academic settings. This conference, by students in grades 6-12 as well as colleges and universities and for all, is committed to:

  • Fostering a better understanding of how students use technology in education and to engage students, teachers and administrators in a conversation about technology.
  • Assisting teachers and administrators in understanding how students use technology both in and out of the classroom.
  • Strengthening the relationship between students, teachers and administrators about technology in the curriculum.

Last year’s conference featured more than twenty general sessions and four keynote addresses from all over the world with over 500 participants!

This is an amazing, engaging, collaborative, worldwide event that you will want to be a part of. You can join for just for one session, or for every session! Even if you miss a session, they are all recorded so you can watch them later!


Attending: You can join anywhere you have an Internet connection, and the schedule of sessions is published in each of the time zones in the world. Just find your time zone, find the sessions taking place, and click right into the ones you want to join. You can also import the entire calendar (Google) into your own calendar, or add selected sessions to your personal calendar to be sure that you don’t miss them.

Presenting: For those interested in presenting (and we encourage teachers and students around the world to do so, even if for the first time), the call for proposals is now open! The final date to submit a proposal is Saturday, January 23, 2016. Click HERE for more information and to submit your proposal.

Volunteering: One of the best parts of this conference is the incredible volunteer effort to help new (and sometimes seasoned!) presenters. Volunteers gather throughout the whole conference in a special virtual lounge and work to make sure that presenters and attendees are given help whenever they need it. Our volunteers are an elite group of global helpers–come find out why they say being a volunteer moderator is the most fun you can have at the conference. More HERE.

The Community: A significant bonus to attending the Student Technology Conference is joining the conference community of students and educators from around the world.

Great Keynotes: Who better to keynote the Student Technology Conference than students. Keynote speakers this year, include the Young Hackers of New York City and Coco Kaleel fromveryhappyrobot.com. More keynotes will be announced after the holidays!

Sponsors: We’ve got a devoted and most-appreciated set of sponsors who make this conference possible (and keep it free!). Our special thanks to Marymounyt School of New York, University School of Milwaukee, Westhampton Middle School, Lauriston Girls’ School and others who support our conference. And there’s still time to join this illustrious group and help support our event! Email steve@hargadon.com.

Send a Tweet: “#stutechconf2016 is coming! Submit to present or register to attend, all free, all online, 6th year of this great event http://www.studenttechnologyconference.com

2016 Student Technology Conference

Visit The Learning Revolution at: http://learningrevolution.com/?xg_source=msg_mes_network

Free Webinar: Creating and Using Effective Rubrics

edWeb.net - Assessment for Learning

Free Webinars
Creating and Using Effective Rubrics
Presented by Susan M. Brookhart, Ph.D., Consultant, Brookhart Enterprises LLC
Wednesday, Apr. 29 at 2 p.m. Central Time
REGISTER HERE
This webinar will focus on creating or adapting rubrics for classroom use. The session will emphasize:

  • How to write criteria and performance level descriptions that assess student learning
  • How to assess “following directions for the assignment” separately from learning
  • How to involve students in using rubrics

Participants will learn how to write criteria and performance level descriptions that assess student learning. Just like the task itself, rubrics must match the learning outcomes they are intended to assess. Too often, criteria in rubrics examine surface level features of student performance or the requirements of an assignment. In contrast, effective rubrics employ criteria that look for qualities in student work that indicate the quality of student learning. The webinar will share principles for writing such effective rubrics and provide examples to critique. Participants will learn how to assess “following directions for the assignment” separately, for example with a checklist. Finally, participants will learn five strategies for involving students in using rubrics to support: shared learning targets, student self-reflection and self-assessment, teacher feedback, peer feedback, and student goal setting.

Susan M. Brookhart, Ph.D., is an education consultant based in Helena, Montana, U.S.A. She currently works with teachers, schools, districts, universities, and states in the area of classroom assessment. She has been a classroom teacher and a professor and department chair in the School of Education at Duquesne University, where she currently is an adjunct faculty member. Her interests include the role of both formative and summative classroom assessment in student motivation and achievement, the connection between classroom assessment and large-scale assessment, and grading. She has written or co-authored sixteen books and over 70 articles on assessment.

Join the live session at the scheduled time at: www.instantpresenter.com/edwebnet20. Join the Assessment for Learning community to participate in online discussions with peers, for invitations to upcoming webinars, to view past webinar recordings, to take a quiz and receive a CE certificate for a past webinar, and for access to more resources.

Triumph LearningThis webinar is sponsored by Triumph Learning.