This resource offers a general overview and guidance of the effctive use of online teaching.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.”
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.
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.