Effective Online Teaching

 

pedagogy This resource offers a general overview and guidance of the effctive use of online teaching.
Including key information concerning the ‘pedagogic’ pros and cons of online teaching and learning.

We would like to acknowledge and thank The University of Newcastle, Australia and their team in Educational Resources Support and Development for the permission to use their Teaching in the Online Environment resource, elements of which have been included and adapted for inclusion in this resource.

Contents

An introduction to effective online teaching
Basic Principles of Effective Online Teaching
Understanding the Teaching Modes of Delivery
The Online Learner


An introduction to effective online teaching
This introduction is an edited transcription of: Blackboard. (1998) Educational Benefits of Online Learning, White Paper.

Experiences in using technology for teaching can vary understandly from one course of study to the next.  What will work for effectively for one may not work out as effective for another. The key is to understand principally what the tool or ‘space’ can do this will allow you to make decisions on its appropraiteness as you know what parameters you are working with. It is important to realise that others’ successes may not have started out as grand designs but through experimentation, reflection, analysing student engagement and obtaining feedback they may have re-modelled and tailored their apporaches so that the learning activity supported by the technology achieves its objective.

effectiveTake a look at our ELT case studies of using various technologies to support teaching

Whatever technology that you decide to use, Blackboard or an external website, there is often a transfer of person to person data, or if using Web 2.0 technoligies (such as blogs) some form of social exchange involved. Our Key Documentation and Policy section offers important guidelines and information.

Enhancing student-to-student and faculty-to-student communication

Web-based education tools provide many ways to increase communication between class members and faculty, including discussion boards, chats, and emails. Researchers have found that adding these elements to a course increases student motivation and participation in class discussions and projects. Students are “more willing to participate [and] a measure of anonymity, which serves as a motivator… people feel more empowered. They are daring and confrontational regarding the expression of ideas,” (Kubala, 1998).
 
Students share perspectives
Online forums, discussion boards and chat rooms, provide public areas to post information. Each student can view another student’s answers and learn through the exposure to different perspectives. This benefits students because they can combine new opinions with their own, and develop a solid foundation for learning. Research supports that “as learners become aware of the variations in interpretation and construction of meaning among a range of people [they] construct an individual meaning, ” (Alexander, 1995).
 
Students experience a sense of equality
Another benefit to using web-based communication tools is to give all students a reinforced sense of equality. Each individual has the same opportunity to “speak up” by posting messages without typical distractions such as seating arrangements, volume of student voices, and gender biases. Shy and anxious students feel more comfortable expressing ideas and backing up facts when posting online instead of speaking in a lecture room. Studies prove that online discussions provoke more confrontational and direct communication between students.
 
Enabling student-centered teaching approaches
Every student has a unique learning style. Some students are visual learners, some learn better when they “learn by doing.” Web-based learning environments permit the instructor to build one course, yet implement a variety of resources, so students can utilize materials in whichever way works best for them.
For example: Instructors can use Blackboard to post all sorts of support documents for students, including handouts, audio clips, videos, images, slide presentations – lecture notes that can be enhanced with multimedia content. With this information being available to the students in an online environment, they can access content and review it at a self-determined pace. This provides increased opportunities for students to view and review course elements in their own time.
 
Accommodate different learning styles
An instructor can also present these materials in many formats to accommodate different types of learning styles. For example, if an instructor puts both lecture notes and slides online, both visual and auditory learners benefit. Students who prefer to focus on “listening” and “watching” during lecture do not have to worry that they are missing important concepts while scrambling to take copious notes. They can focus on understanding the material and concepts as they are presented. Students with attention difficulties or those who get overwhelmed by organizational tasks also benefit, because materials provided show how the instructor has grouped and prepared materials in the handouts, and indicate what items are most important.
 
Provide opportunities for exploration
Instructors can also provide increased opportunity for student exploration and activity learning by putting links to related Web sites and other web content into the online learning environment. When instructors reference these types of Web sites, content reinforcement is provided as students can see how course material is utilized in “real world” situations. It also is a mechanism for encouragaging, supporting and facilitating ‘independant study’.
 
Encourage additional rehearsal time
Additional benefits for those who “learn by doing” occur when students participate in online discussions, as students are exposed to an extra period of information rehearsal. Typically, students rehearse information when they study for exams or complete assignments. However, they also rehearse information when formulating thoughts into sentences and typing those thoughts into the computer. When instructors post discussion questions or short essay assignments in the online portion of a course, students must attend to and reflect on the subject matter before responding. This results in reflection and articulation of content, as the very process of reporting and writing about what they have learned engages students in an activity learning experience.
Providing 24/7 accessibility to course materials
Some students work best in the morning, some in the evening. Some students learn at a distance. Some are having to fit their studies around work comittments. Scheduling time for homework and group projects can be difficult depending on each student’s course, job, and personal responsibilities.
 
Continual access to materials
When course content and activities are provided online, students no longer need to worry about accessing course materials. Students can complete assignments during their most productive times. Busy students can choose to download readings or take practice exams whenever it is most convenient, in the evening after kids are put to bed, or at 4 a.m. during a bout of insomnia. Continual access to course documents also insures students can obtain materials at any time, removing the opportunity for frustrations such as “The library was closed,” “All the copies of reserve readings were checked out,” or “I missed that handout during your lecture.”
For example: Anna is a commuting student who takes courses along with her work and family responsibilities. A guest speaker for her 10 a.m. astronomy section is scheduled to speak, but after class time, at 8 p.m. Because the course is supplemented with an online component, the professor coordinates a live chat session with the guest speaker. Anna attends the lecture by logging in and even asking questions from home.
 
Remove reliance on physical attendance
In traditional education, students working on group projects must coordinate schedules. In distance learning environments, this may not even be possible, forcing participants to work independently. When web-based collaborative tools are available, coordination is no longer an issue. Providing a project team with asynchronous discussions and file uploads, students can work in groups without the constraints of meeting together at a certain date, time, and location.
For example: One student group has a member named George who works nights. Unfortunately George can’t make the scheduled group meetings. When using on online group communication tool, George can complete his part of the assignment and post it to his group. This way, even if he is not physically present at the meeting, group members can access and edit his work.
 
Providing just-in-time methods to assess and evaluate student progress
Learner assessments are essential in education. Tests and surveys inform the instructor whether teaching methods and course structures are successful. These assessments also determine if student progress is satisfactory. Online assessment tools provide instructors with many ways to build, distribute, and compile information quickly and easily.
For example: An instructor assigns students to watch a political debate on television at 8 p.m. on Sunday night. He wants to assess students’ opinion of the issue to discuss during Monday’s lecture. The instructor creates a short online survey. After the show, students log in and complete the survey. The results are tallied automatically and available for the instructor in plenty of time for the lecture.
 
Adds pedagogical benefits
Web-based testing features also have pedagogical benefits. From the student viewpoint, frequent assessment provides concept reinforcement and increases motivation. Instructors can post practice exams and end-of-chapter reviews without worrying about finding the time and resources to analyze results. Students can access these assessments at any time, privately and in the comfort of their home. Since grading is computerized, students receive immediate feedback. This may also help students who suffer from test anxiety relax and minimize embarrassment for those that do poorly.
 
Summary
The integration of web-based learning components bring added value to traditional education. Students and faculty benefit from using the communication and assessment tools. Students have a customized approach to knowledge acquisition that suits learning styles and busy schedules. The advantages of online education make a significant impact in higher education today and, as technology evolves, promise to deliver even greater benefits in the future.