Promoting Student Communication and Collaboration in an Online Course
Many colleges and universities now routinely offer online courses. Furthermore, courseware to support online courses, applications such as Blackboard™ and WebCT™, have become more sophisticated in terms of the features they offer and the ease by which they allow faculty to create online courses. In some respects, however, technological support for teaching online has outpaced the corresponding pedagogy that supports it.
In recent years, we have come to understand that the dynamics of creating an online course is more complex than simply adapting content to the Web. As students gain experience with online courses, they also have become more critical consumers and expect more than the old “correspondence method” of distance learning, where students, alone and at a distance, are left to ponder course materials with little or no interaction from other students and instructors.
Not surprisingly, research has shown that students tend to rate more favorably online courses that are student-centered and that promote interaction. One such commonly used vehicle for student interaction is the online class discussion or conference—usually text based and both synchronous and asynchronous. In addition to making students feel that they are connected to a community of learners, online conferencing can promote active knowledge building and enrich learning. Facilitating successful online collaborative experiences for students is not an easy task for the instructor, however. This presentation suggests how online conferencing experiences can be structured and evaluated in ways that will help promote participation and active learning among students.
Mark Mabrito (United States)
Associate Professor of English
Purdue University Calumet
(Virtual Presentation, English)