Engaging Students in Distance Learning

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Engagement and participatory democracy in online communities of inquiry

Engaging Students in Distance Learning Jim WatersSusan GassonThe iSchool at Drexel

http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~jw65/

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 20091

If students have already paid us, why should we care if they are engaged ?Altruism the long view?Pragmatism they can always leave taking their tuition money with themStudent feedback and tenure decisions?Word gets out! social networksStudents can vote with their virtual feet andTheir very real wallets

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Agenda How do I know if students are engaged?What is the effect of:Question design?Course scaffolding?Instructor moderation?Being an entertaining instructor?So what?

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Research StudyAnalyzed course interactions via discussion board on Blackboard learning system.12 online MS courses (info. systems./info. Science)313 Students, 11,497 messages Posts to discussion board + small group discussionsAnalyzedThread depth, thread length, participantsCognitive content of messageInteractive intent of message Patterns of message sequencesExamined student outcomes related to interactionPre and Post questionnairesDemographics and Attitudinal data

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Three modes of learning engagement

Individual ParticipationActive Course InvolvementIterative Social Engagement

Fluid: students can move between modes reacting to drivers

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Mode 1: Individual ParticipationThe semi-transparent participantInteracts with materialsInternalizes knowledge Contractual obligation postingsBroadcast messagesSuperficial learningHermit!

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Mode 2: Active Course InvolvementDemonstrates (some) genuine interestInteracts with peers (after a fashion)Translates community knowledgeRelates posts to own experience or knowledgeInternalizes community knowledgeEgo-centric approachSmall group or clique interactions

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Mode 3: Interactive Social EngagementMotivated for interactive learningCommitted to greater group learningInteracts freely with peersLooped learning cyclesIterative internalizations/externalizations Social construction of knowledge

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009How can we tell what is going on?

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Mode 1: Course ParticipationHow Do We Know A Project Is On Track? Instructor 10/21/07 2:36 PMRE:How Do We Know A Project Is On Track? S1810/25/07 12:09 PMRE:How Do We Know A Project Is On Track? S10 10/25/07 6:29 PMRE:How Do We Know A Project Is On Track?S21 10/25/07 8:30 PMRE:How Do We Know A Project Is On Track? S17 10/26/07 7:38 PMRE:How Do We Know A Project Is On Track? S22 10/28/07 6:19 PMRE:How Do We Know A Project Is On Track? S2 10/28/07 7:04 PMRE:How Do We Know A Project Is On Track?S4 10/28/07 10:24 PMRE:How Do We Know A Project Is On Track? S10 10/28/07 10:26 PMRE:How Do We Know A Project Is On Track? S7 10/28/07 10:46 PMRE:How Do We Know A Project Is On Track? S8 10/29/07 12:59 AMRE:How Do We Know A Project Is On Track? S11 12/14/07 11:34 AM

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Mode 1: Course Participation

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Mode 2: Active Course InvolvementUnanswered questions Instructor 10/5/07 3:23 PMRE:Unanswered questions S1 10/5/07 6:59 PMRE:Unanswered questions S17 10/6/07 3:41 AMRE:RE:Unanswered questions S19 10/8/07 12:33 AMRE:RE:RE:Unanswered questions S20 10/8/07 10:52 AMRE:Unanswered questions S13 10/6/07 10:52 AMRE:RE:Unanswered questions S18 10/7/07 4:14 PMRE:RE:RE:Unanswered questions S6 10/9/07 9:45 PMRE:Unanswered questions S12 10/6/07 11:04 AMRE:RE:Unanswered questions S20 10/7/07 10:34 AMRE:Unanswered questions S9 10/7/07 6:49 AMRE:Unanswered questions S21 10/7/07 4:36 PMRE:Unanswered questions S10 10/7/07 5:31 PMRE:Unanswered questions S4 10/7/07 10:59 PMRE:Unanswered questions S19 10/8/07 12:07 AMRE:Unanswered questions S8 10/8/07 2:21 PMBOK as a communications/marketing tool S12 10/9/07 1:18 PMRE:Unanswered questions S8 10/8/07 2:48 PMRE:Unanswered questions S14 10/12/07 2:33 PMRE:RE:Unanswered questions S12 10/12/07 3:22 PMRE:Unanswered questions S15 10/12/07 3:26

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Mode 2: Active Course Involvement

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Mode 3: Interactive Social Engagement

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Mode 3: Interactive Social Engagement

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009What makes students engage at higher levels in a distance-learning course?

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Question Frequency vs. response

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Question Design

I want you to cook up a systems development project (real or imagined). Describe the goal(s), the objective(s) of the project and the scope of the work the systems analyst for the project. Post your goals, objectives and scope by around Thursday of this week. I'd then like each of you to comment a bit on each other's work. [Cooking up a new project]Critically evaluate the author's FAST approach. Is it useful? Practical? What are some alternatives? Is this a "real" model that could be used on "real" projects? [Fast or slow]I would like each of you to initially focus on one fact finding technique, your contribution should be a critical (but brief) examination of that technique within the domain of systems analysis. [Fact-finding]

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009And the Winner isI would like each of you to initially focus on one fact finding technique, your contribution should be a critical (but brief) examination of that technique within the domain of systems analysis. [Fact-finding]Critically evaluate the author's FAST approach. Is it useful? Practical? What are some alternatives? Is this a "real" model that could be used on "real" projects? [Fast or slow]I want you to cook up a systems development project (real or imagined). Describe the goal(s), the objective(s) of the project and the scope of the work the systems analyst for the project. Post your goals, objectives and scope by around Thursday of this week. I'd then like each of you to comment a bit on each other's work. [Cooking up a new project]

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009GoodI want you to cook up a systems development project (real or imagined). Describe the goal(s), the objective(s) of the project and the scope of the work the systems analyst for the project. Post your goals, objectives and scope by around Thursday of this week. I'd then like each of you to comment a bit on each other's work. [Cooking up a new project]150 posts Several sub-threads extremely deep (7 or 8 levels) Critique, feedback, support and facilitationWell-placed faculty moderation, nudges rather than cattle prodsWell-bounded but open-ended: students define problemDeliberately pitched as a cooperative taskConcrete (well-defined) taskStudents negotiate the task meaning collaboratively

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009AverageI would like each of you to initially focus on one fact finding technique, your contribution should be a critical (but brief) examination of that technique within the domain of systems analysis. [Fact-finding]85 postsModerate sub-thread depth (mostly 3 or 4 levels) 31% were messages from Instructor to students20% were messages from students to InstructorWell-placed faculty moderation, focus on challenging assumptions.Reasonably open-ended problemFar less cooperative inter-student activityNot pitched as a cooperative activityStudents not answering a common question, but question is defined

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009BadCritically evaluate the author's FAST approach. Is it useful? Practical? What are some alternatives? Is this a "real" model that could be used on "real" projects? [Fast or slow]46 postsLimited sub-thread depth - mostly 2 (question then single response)45% were messages from Instructor to students37% were messages from students to Instructor18% were student-student messagesFaculty intervention much more critical (didactic)Five questions in one: 1 was open-ended 4 boundedVery little cooperative inter-student activityNot pitched as a cooperative activity

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Good questions tended to beEarly rather than laterFirst question in the weekEarly weeks better than later weeksOpen (scope), but bounded (problem structure)Permitted students to call upon their personal experience with IT or organizations Permitted many ways to approach the issuesNegotiated rather than definedPermitted collaborative interpretationAllowed students to contribute by defining their own take on the question.Relevance to students helps war stories, company policies and approaches

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009Bad questions tended to beFollowing a highly-interactive question or later in the courseLater questions much less interactive and constructive across courses than earlier questions Cognitively complexContaining multiple parts that needed to be considered in turn, orOverly abstract, so students could not draw on their personal experience. Socially isolatingFewer opportunities for interpretation and collaboration in answering the question.

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009How does course scaffolding affect student engagement?

Jim Waters, Susan Gasson Drexel University, 2009ScaffoldingSomething to hang construction onSolid foundation for taskMaterialsDiscussionSupport for knowledgeable peers to c