Archive for the ‘Online Education’ Category

A Three-Pronged Approach to Improving Online Student Engagement, Critical Thinking

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Monica Rothschild-Boros, an art appreciation and cultural anthropology instructor at Orange Coast College, uses a combination of embedded lecture questions, threaded discussion, and innovative assignments to engage students and get them to think critically in her online courses.

Online lectures
Rothschild-Boros offers her online lectures in several formats. She creates them as PowerPoint presentations and includes narration, converts them to pdf, and uploads them into iTunes, “so [students] can take them to the beach and have no excuse for having trouble accessing the lecture.”

In addition to offering the lectures in students’ preferred formats, she includes embedded questions within each, sometimes up to 10 per lecture, that ensures that students read the material and that they think about it more deeply than they might otherwise.

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Fomca: There is a need for better monitoring of online purchasing

Monday, February 18th, 2013

PETALING JAYA: There has to be a more secure and established mechanism to oversee the process of online purchasing as more people turn to e-shopping for their needs, said Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) president Datuk Paul Selvaraj.

With the growing popularity of e-shopping and deal sites, he said the mechanism would need to be put in place to ensure the authenticity of these dealers.

“More and more deal sites are popping up. There must be a system to help customers know which sites can be trusted, such as a mark of validation,” he said.

Fomca, he assured consumers, would continue to survey e-purchasing trends.

“If needed, we will put forth a memorandum in order for the authorities to enforce stricter action against unscrupulous deal sites,” he said, adding that the need for better monitoring of e-shopping was a global issue.

It was recently reported that the National Consumer Complaints Centre (NCCC) had received over 400 complaints against some 10 deal sites between September and December last year, 61% of which were about the quality of purchased products.

This year, the centre, which is affiliated with Fomca, had received more than 100 complaints pertaining to deal sites.

Selvaraj advised consumers to do as many background checks as possible on the sellers of the products before making their purchases.

“They should also do research on the products that they want to buy. With online purchasing, it is harder to verify the authenticity of a product or service because, often, you do not see what you are buying right away. A lot of this is based on trust,” he said.

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Tips for Online Instructors: Managing Files, Feedback, and Workload

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Teaching online is a rewarding experience; but any instructor who makes the transition to online education, thinking it will be easier and less time-consuming than face-to-face classroom teaching, is in for a big surprise! Establishing a regular presence in the online classroom, grading assignments and discussions, and maintaining records and notes from term to term are all time consuming – but essential – tasks. Learning to take care of the details of online teaching more efficiently makes it possible to be more effective in your teaching. The following is an abbreviated version of guidance I provide to new instructors about ways to keep their course files organized, students engaged, and workload manageable.

For every class, I have multiple folders on my computer:

  • Current Term
  • Past Terms
  • Announcements
  • Syllabi
  • Assignments
  • DQs (Discussions)
  • Feedback

Within each of those folders, other folders and documents are nested. For example, each term I drag the current term folder into the past terms’ folder; it’s important to maintain records, particularly of grading and feedback. I refer to my announcements folder each time I teach a course; and, past terms’ syllabi are the foundations for each new term’s syllabi.


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Online Homework Systems Can Boost Student Achievement

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Online homework has great appeal for instructors, especially those teaching large courses. By using online assignments, instructors don’t have to collect, grade, and promptly return large quantities of homework assignments. Online programs provide instructors with feedback on student performance that can be used to modify the presentation of material in class. Online homework is also beneficial to students. They get feedback promptly, even more promptly than that provided by very conscientious instructors. Online homework can also be designed so that it allows students to work on areas that frequently cause trouble and/or on areas where the individual student is having difficulty.

Despite these beneficial design features, there is a need to document quantitatively that completion of online homework positively impacts student achievement. Some work in this area has already been done, and somewhat surprisingly, the results to date are mixed. Some studies reported a positive impact. In some studies, the correlations were weak, and in others online homework had no impact on exam scores. “The lack of consensus on the effectiveness of online homework highlights the need for further investigations.” (p. 71)

This research team decided to go with an online homework system that had showed better student performance than text-based homework in previous research. “For our study, we examined whether the previously reported learning gains for this online homework system were an isolated instance of success, specific to an instructor, or whether the system had the same efficacy when taught by multiple instructors over multiple years.” (p. 72) To answer that question, researchers collected data from 13 sections of the same course, enrolling 3,806 students and taught by five different instructors over a six-year period.


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Managing High-Enrollment Online Courses

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Online instructors are being asked to accommodate an increasing number of students in their courses. The challenge is to manage the workload associated with these high-enrollment courses. Susan Fein, eLearning consultant/instructional designer at Washington State University, offered some advice on how to do this.

Replace written activities with objective knowledge checks. “One question that instructors can ask is, ‘Is there a chance that I can replace one or more written activities like a discussion forum or paper with some style of objective questions such as quizzes?’” Fein says. “Quizzes or any objective-style assessment is very good for a couple of things, but the easiest slam dunks are facts, figures, terminology, historical events, who discovered what, definition of acronyms, basic foundation concepts—stuff that has a right and a wrong answer.”

Use peer review. “Instead of the instructor being the only person who does all the grading, consider doing some peer review activities. Perhaps students could review a first draft of a final paper and provide feedback. Peer review will not work if you don’t provide a rubric. The rubric needs to clearly outline to all the students the criteria they need to look at and how to judge the quality of those various criteria,” Fein says.

Use TAs effectively. When teaching high-enrollment online courses, instructors often have teaching assistants who can help grade assignments. One of the challenges of working with TAs is that they often interpret the quality of work differently than the instructor. As with peer review, a rubric is an excellent way to ensure accurate and effective assessment. “Implementing a rubric, even if it’s just for TAs, can be an excellent way to delegate the workload and to make sure the interpretation of the quality of the work is consistent. This minimizes disputes with students over grading concerns where one student got a better grade than another for comparable work because their work was graded by different TAs,” Fein says.

Use threaded discussions judiciously. “One of the things that kind of happened in the evolution of online learning was that we got very focused—and rightly so—on creating community and collaboration and having a lot of interaction. All those are absolutely valid, and I would never suggest that they should go away. But at the same time, I’m not so sure that threaded discussion didn’t get overused to a certain degree. Sometimes educators feel compelled to include discussion forums for every single lesson when in fact that may not be the best way to get the outcomes that you’re looking for. Use them selectively,” Fein says.

Resist the temptation to read and respond to every discussion post. Fein offers several ways to achieve this. One approach is to assign students to facilitate the discussions on a rotating basis. Another is to state in your syllabus that the students are obligated to post a minimum number of original and response posts throughout the semester and that you are going to select and review a random selection of these posts. “Because they don’t know which of those posts you are going to look at, they’ll need to give it their best throughout the course so that they are not graded on that one discussion in which they slacked off,” Fein says.

by Bob Kelly.

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Online Student Retention Strategies: A Baker’s Dozen of Recommendations

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Despite the tremendous growth of online education programs, student retention for online courses remains problematic. The attrition rate from online universities is often cited as 20% to 50% (Diaz, 2002). Studies also reveal that attrition from online programs can be as high as 70% to 80% (Dagger, Wade & Conlan, 2004).

With startling percentages of students leaving online educational programs, the question becomes “What should an institution do to encourage, inspire, and retain students in its online educational programs?” The responses will vary; however, there is no denying the importance of the foundation course. The foundation course is a student’s first taste of online learning and therefore must provide students with a positive learning experience. To help ensure a successful first experience, I offer this baker’s dozen of recommendations.

1. Online foundation classrooms need to remain as centers of encouragement where the professor’s enthusiasm is contagious. It is critical that students experience encouragement, support, and affirmation. The foundation course professor needs to extend a deep respect for each learner and hold each learner accountable for respecting his or her peers.

2. Professors need to maintain a learner focus of support as the needs of students in the foundation course will greatly vary. An effective learner focus includes, but is not limited to, constructive recommendations for improvement, meaningful academic challenges, and consistent grading practices.

3. The responsiveness of the professor to his or her students’ needs is critical. Emails, telephone calls, and all other responses to students’ questions, needs and interests should be responded to within 24 hours.

4. Empathy needs to be extended to learners at all times. The empathy and understanding that professors extend to their learners needs to be based upon research with regards to topics such as adult learners, brain research, and multiple intelligences.

5. Often times our online students are not traditional, full time students. They have careers, families, and additional responsibilities that compete for their time.

6. Foundation course professors need to understand that adult learners have their own unique learning needs, interests, and preferences. The pedagogy for an adult learner is unique and professors in the foundation course need to individualize, differentiate, and personalize their teaching to the needs of their adult learners.

7. The foundation course professor needs to be aware of the learning curve that many students are enduring. Some students are learning how to navigate the online classroom for the first time and their experiences are often challenging, frustrating, and, at times, overwhelming.

8. The instructor’s daily presence and participation in the online classroom is critical to helping students learn, gain confidence, and feel secure in their new and sometimes foreign environment.

9. Faculty need to be mindful to always communicate in a supportive, professional, and set a positive tone. Communication pathways should include email, telephone, teleconferences, webinars, Skype, and audiovisual communications implemented within the online classroom.

10. The foundational course professor needs to demonstrate a positive, proactive, and caring disposition at all times. Humor may be implemented in a supportive manner; however, professors need to ensure that their humor is appropriate and welcomed by students.

11. The development of an online learning community is particularly beneficial to learners in foundational courses. The professor needs to clearly establish the online learning community as a place of respect.

12. The professor, along with each student, needs to honor and celebrate diversity of thought. The foundational course needs to be established as a “safe place” where learners feel confident and comfortable in sharing opposing views and challenging thoughts.

13. The foundational course instructor needs to work closely with advisors in support of his or her students. Confidentiality and privacy need to be maintained and students need to feel assured that their rights are protected.

by Michael Jazzar.

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Six Ways to Get Your Online Students Participating in the Course

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Have you ever worried about the level of participation in your online courses? Perhaps you have difficulty encouraging students to interact with one another, or maybe you find student responses to be perfunctory. Surely there must be a way to encourage the kinds of participation that really supports learning.

During a recent online seminar titled Improve Participation to Enhance Learning in Online Courses, Joan Thormann, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Technology in Education at Lesley University and author of The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Designing and Teaching Online Courses, shared six techniques for encouraging interactions that boost learning in an online class.

  1. Optimized use of introductions: Encourage students (and the professor) to share personal information like hobbies, interests, and demographic data. This will build community, raise interest in the students in the class, and make for a friendly online environment. This is an easy first assignment.
  2. Use of the instructor as a model: As an instructor, consider giving students feedback about their assignments using a template that details the expectations for the assignment.
  3. Use of a clear grading system: Encourage the students to give helpful contributions by grading their discussions every week.
  4. Use of student moderators: The instructor does not have to be the only one to encourage valuable contributions from students in the course. Use student moderators on a rotating basis to manage discussions.
  5. Use of voice conferences: In some cases, a live voice conference can be a valuable addition to the online course.
  6. Development of supportive forums: Develop some online forums where students can go for support, assistance, and an exchange of information with other students.

by Jennifer Patterson Lorezetti.

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Instructor Characteristics That Affect Online Student Success

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Which online instructor characteristics help students succeed? It’s a rather basic question that has not been adequately answered. We did a literature search to find if anybody had done any research from the students’ perspective on what constitutes a quality online instructor. There were perhaps 10 articles by professors speculating about what they thought defined quality online instruction, but nobody had asked students.

We decided to pursue this question at our institution, Anne Arundel Community College. We asked students in 27 sections of online psychology courses to answer the following multiple-choice question: How quickly should faculty respond to any student posting (i.e., email, quiz, written assignment, etc.)?

  1. 24 hours
  2. 48 hours
  3. 72 hours
  4. One week

We also asked study participants to name three characteristics of an outstanding online teacher and explain why those characteristics are important. We received 624 responses that yielded the following results:

  • Communication/availability: 66 percent
  • Compassion: 58 percent
  • Organization: 58 percent
  • Feedback: 45 percent
  • Instructor personal information: 18 percent
  • Other (e.g., knowledge, technical competence, creativity): <10 percent

From these findings and the comments from participants, we identified communication/availability and feedback as the two primary characteristics that the students found important in their online courses. Students wanted frequent, timely communication and substantive feedback on their assignments. We received comments such as the following:

  • “We must hear from the instructor within 24 hours!”
  • “I would not think twice about withdrawing if the instructor is not available five days a week.”
  • “The worst thing is waiting for a graded paper.”

It’s helpful to learn what students want from their online instructors, but we also wanted to know how these instructor characteristics affect student success, defined as course completion with the grade of an A, B, or C.

To determine the effect that outstanding online instruction can have on student success, we identified five instructors who

  • responded at least three times daily to all online course emails,
  • graded all papers within 48 hours of submission,
  • offered specific feedback on all written work, and
  • were compassionate to students’ needs.

We compared success rates in 137 online course sections within psychology, history, and sociology for a total of 2,432 students. Success rates at the college in 2008 were 66 percent for traditional courses and 59 percent for online courses. The success rate of students in online courses with outstanding instructors was 82 percent, 16 percent better than in the traditional lecture classroom and 23 percent better than online students overall.

by Donald Orso, Phd and Joan Doolittles, MA

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Mapping Success: Essential Elements of an Effective Online Learning Experience

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

An online course is like walking into a foreign land with an entire map laid out, but having no sense of the land’s origin or how to navigate the terrain. How the instructor formats and interacts with the class will ultimately determine the student’s travel experience. The purpose of this article is to provide an understanding of how the elements of an online course are integrated such that they form a cohesive whole that creates easy travel based upon instructor presence, appropriate feedback, and easy navigation for students.

Instructor Presence – The Mapmaker
Instructor presence is vital to create in an online course, because without it, the class becomes an impersonal experience guided only by text and the other electronic medium. Just as in a seated class, the presence of an instructor provides a sense of leadership and security for the students, a central point person that guides them in the learning experience. In an online class, one has to be conscious to create this presence, as it is not patently evident as it is in a seated class.

Instructor presence can be created in a variety of ways. The welcome announcement and faculty bio both provide an initial presence, but these are not in and of themselves enough. True instructor presence requires consistency throughout the course, and should be felt in the other areas. This can be achieved by the following: having consistent formatting, putting photos in the faculty bio and on the main introduction so that students could put a face to the instructor’s name, having the instructor provide his or her own icebreaker and having students relate theirs to it, providing clear objectives for the course (and relating those to each lesson so that the expectations are clear), and having the instructor take part in the discussions. These elements give the student a sense that there is a “mapmaker,” and not just a map.

Instructor Feedback – The Tour Guide
Instructor feedback is one of the most vital elements of an online course. It is interesting to note that instructor feedback is also a vital part of the aforementioned instructor presence. Feedback helps the students recognize that there is an instructor that is monitoring their progress. You can have instructor presence without feedback, but the presence would likely seem detached and impersonal. Feedback adds an interactive component that brings warmth to the experience. Put another way, if instructor presence is the sense of the “mapmaker,” then instructor feedback is the “tour-guide,” so to speak.

Feedback can be found in many areas. Clearly, grades are the most obvious avenue. However, there is great opportunity for feedback within the discussions. This type of feedback helps the students know that they are on track and moving in a direction that is consistent with the course objectives. Feedback also includes giving reinforcement as quickly as possible, as doing so will help illicit the behavior that is desired. This might include having a quiz with a function that produces immediate correction. It is also important to let students know the time frame for answering emails (which really should be within 36 hours) so that students don’t have to worry that their questions are just “hanging out in cyber-space.”

Navigation – The Map
Lastly, a map is only as useful as it is accessible. The legend, the key, etc, all must make sense and be relevant if the map is to be useful. There are several elements one may implement in order to make navigation as easy as possible.

by Danielle Hathcock.

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Boosting a First-Time Online Adult Student’s Self-Esteem

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

As professors, we all have seen first-time students who are so nervous that they do not even know where to begin, let alone how to achieve their educational goals. I am one of those lucky professors who works with adult students who are going back to school for a myriad of reasons, and are choosing to take online classes. Not only do these students need help with writing an academic paper, and how to submit an assignment to a dropbox, but their self-esteem and support system are sometimes lacking.

Last year I began sharing the following advice in an email to my students. The result has been a more open dialogue as students learn that I care about them and will help them succeed, but also that it’s going to take hard work and ultimately they’re responsible for their learning. Feel free to adapt to meet your needs and let the learning and self-esteem grow.

Dear Students:
You made the choice to get your degree and are taking classes online. Now what? It does not matter when you begin your journey, as any time you begin to reach your educational goals is the perfect time. You are looking at a long road ahead of you, and I will not lie, it will not be easy. Committing to your educational endeavor is like a lifestyle change that will take just that, a commitment, and it is a big one that will take a lot of work. However, believe me, as I am speaking from experience, when I say to you, it will be worth it!

I know you can do this and I have put my top four tips down on paper to help you get on a smart track in order to reach the finish line and walk across that stage at graduation to accept your degree.

1. Guard Against Self-Destructive Behaviors - You made the first step by applying to college, selecting a major, and getting signed up for that first class. Now, the real work begins. We all have the ability to choose our paths, to reach our goals, and build the life of our dreams. The challenge is in believing in yourself.

Next look at how your behavior, emotions, and thoughts are affecting your study habits. Are you procrastinating reading your assigned work, thinking you can just pull whatever information you need from the Internet, not starting your papers until the last minute, etc.? Examine your self-destructive behaviors. What can you do differently to be more positive and to gain the best experience out of each and every class?

2. Set Attainable Goals - What is your vision of your future? Look at next week, next month, your current class, and each class after right up to the end of your degree. Include goals for all the roles in your life. What is important in attaining those goals you have set? To make a permanent change in how you study, and balance school with the other roles in your life, you will need to set short-term goals – what is due this week?

3. Set up a Support System - You are responsible for your own success, but we all get by with a little help from our friends and family. That is why it is important to build a healthy support system. Share your educational goals and how you are planning to accomplish them. Let others know how important this is to you to have their support

4. Ask Questions - This is your education, and you will get out of it what you put into it. Any time you find yourself struggling to figure out a specific problem, an assignment, or even just not sure what a term means, ASK. Your professors are there to help.

by Dawn Kasier, PhD.

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