Best Practices for Online Pedagogy:Preparing WISE Scholars Workshop
Designing Effective Assignments and Facilitating Online Discussions
Trudi Bellardo HahnUniversity of Maryland, College of Information StudiesJanuary 8, 2008
The teaching experiences and suggestions in this presentation were contributed by Bruce Dearstyne, Ann Prentice, and yours truly. A team effort!Our motto: Technology does not substitute for good teaching.
Some Qualities of Effective Online Assignments
Authentic: materials and activities are framed around "real life" contexts in which they would be usedReal world connection: Get students out of virtual worldStudent-to-student interaction
AuthenticAssignments that hone skills graduates will use in the workplace, e.g.,Working in teams in a virtual environmentAnalyzing case studies: Introduces students to process of working in a virtual environment to deal with issues and provide a product in a stated amount of time.
Connected with real worldGet students out of the virtual world and into the real world e.g., conducting interviewsvisiting a library, archive, school media center, or other type of information center
Interview scenarioPrentice [leadership]:As a class we develop a questionnaire that each student will use to interview someone they see as a leaderQuestions arise from the various discussion topics, e.g. integrity, communication, what a leader does I turn their questions into an interview schedule that includes questions each student will ask. Students can ask additional questions during interview. The range of individuals interviewed and range of responses provides a useful summary of the course Students have said that this assignment has been a high point in their MLS study as they get to interview someone for whom they have respect and now have a reason to ask them about their leadership values and leadership style.
Sharing interviews onlineHahn [information use]:So that everyone will benefit from your findings and your experience interviewing a librarian and a user, respond to these questions:What was the most challenging aspect of the interview process?What was the most surprising or interesting thing you learned from the librarian or user?How were the views and opinions of the librarian different from that of the user?20-20 hindsight: What would you do differently if you had to do the interviews over again?
Real-world also means teamsAnother aspect of real world is teams: Having WISE students in each team gives it even more reality as students are truly geographically diverse. Having completed the assignments, they are competent to work in a virtual environment as part of a distributed professional team.
Student to Student Interaction (team and group projects)Most online learners are taking Web-based classes to accommodate busy, unpredictable work schedules. Interaction involving collaboration with other students is difficult.Practice makes perfect: Students initially worry about dealing with the technology and team project. First case may be awkward. By the third, they are working efficiently as an online team. Student responses show that initial hesitance is replaced by feelings of competence to work in groups in a virtual environment.
Some Qualities of EffectiveOnline Discussion
Students value the experienceEverybody contributesPostings are well writtenVariety of formatsReflect what is happening now in real world.
Communicating Value of DiscussionsMessage to students:Discussions deepen understandingGive you an opportunity to express your views, learn from othersOnline discussion serves same purposes that in-classroom discussion serves: sharing opinions; summarizing; commenting on, analyzing, and sometimes criticizing readings or lecture contentMay relate readings and lectures to your own experiences, or discuss applications to professional workFor all these reasons, discussions are important part of learning experience.
Everybody ContributesParticipation at full level required, not optionalRealize that some students (esp. international) will start out hesitant if they have never had an online course before. Encourage, guide, and reward improvement as semester progresses Prompt and encourage by e-mail when a student is not participating enoughDo not to criticize anyone by name.
Encouraging Online Discussions Be part of discussions yourselfbring in new ideas, summarize posts.Pose questions to help keep discussion goingBoth students and faculty should share own opinions and perspectives; faculty should model desired behavior
Spark Feeling of ConnectionIf they contribute reading reflections or reflective journals, make comments and raise questions individually to get them to push their analysis and thinking furtherSend e-mail individually with suggestions and, occasionally, with books or other sources that they will find interesting Make the course feel personal to them; they want to know that what they write is noticed.
Offer "Suggestions for Online Discussions" at beginning of courseUse text messaging abbreviations sparingly!Use clear, straightforward English: good grammar, spelling, and structure. Informal style is fine, but sloppy is not. In composing postings, draft, read, edit, and then post. That enables you to be concise, catch errors, and make sure your point is clear.
Keep postings brief
Harder to do than long-winded ones (this is real world!)Also, attempt to avoid, when at all possible, the tendency, when writing in detail, and when of course one discovers a new topic of distraction, and wants to follow that thread instead, as many are wont to do when the statement is of vital import to the topic at hand, such as when an important point needs to be made that supports the main point, and when considering this one loses the direction of the beginning of the sentence, and ultimately winds up building a ladder out of prepositions out of which to dig ones self the hole which one has fallen into. [Grazie to Paul Lagasse, CLIS, 95]
More Guidance about DiscussionFor long posts, consider using bullets and breaking into paragraphs (think e-mail).When reacting to or challenging someone else, be positive and respectfulStay focused on the topic at hand. Save your observations about other subjects or topics for when they are relevant to the immediate discussion or post them on the Raise Your Hand forum.
Variety: Change the PaceUse wikis and blogs, as appropriate
Discussion Board: Model Matrix Refer to your readings to fill in the cells of the matrix. The row on Dervin's Sense-Making Theory is filled out as an example, using heading guidelines. The remaining cells are grayed out and marked with labels. Start by choosing a gray cell to fill in. Create a new reply for each cell, editing the subject line to include the label for the cell you're referring to. Reply to specific threads to suggest changes or additions. Try to use the precise wording that you would like to see in the cell. The goal is to transform all the gray areas to white! At the end of the week, the Discussion Summary team will prepare a fully filled-out version of this matrix that will replace the empty matrix in the lecture.
Variety: Create Alternative ForumsRaise Your HandRaise questions or explore any topic that falls outside the weekly discussion topicsStudents may bring in humore.g., library use study of peepsCourse Requirements Q&AAsk questions about the syllabus, assignments, schedule, or norms
Variety: In the News
Dearstyne [management of information programs]]:Another alternative forum: A "XXXX in the News" forum focused on the topic of the courseAsk or require students to post at least once on course-related topic that has come up in the news, in a new article or book, etc.Post yourself in this forum, to demonstrate the relevance of the course to the work of institutions.
Variety: Guest Speakers Guest presenter does not have to leave office to participatemore more able to fit interacting with class in her/his schedule.Benefit for guest is feedback from students. Guest can ask students what they think of innovations, issues, etc. in their area. Excellent colleague to soon-to-be colleague interaction.
Guest Speaker ScenarioPrentice [managing academic information enterprise]:Presenter provides a position description and notes current issues with which they are dealingStudents have information prior to discussion session and can as a class discuss possible question areas prior to visitStudents have 3 days to interact with guest rather than guest coming in for one class and then disappearing as is typical of a face-to-face class. Questions are more substantial than in one-time meetingIf unresolved questions after discussion session, have opportunity to e-mail guest for clarification.
ConclusionTechnology does not substitute for good teaching, but technology can expand opportunities for a whole new level of interaction between students and facultyWISE students add an exciting dimension of diversity to our coursesTeaching and learning online deepen intellectual engagementOverall, each one of us has found the online environment stimulating and online teaching rewarding.
Questions or comments?
Contact us!Ann, Bruce, and I would be happy to discuss out methods and experiences via e-mail:
Ann: email@example.comBruce: firstname.lastname@example.orgTrudi: email@example.com