Monday, September 30, 2013

Improving Teacher to Student Interaction in Online Courses

Feedback and interaction with students in the online classroom is just as important as it is in the face-to-face classroom but more difficult to facilitate. Teacher to student interaction in online courses requires instructors to be strategic and purposeful in their communication with students. Below are some suggestions to improve the teacher to student communication and interaction in online courses:

  • Announcements: Just as the instructor would make announcements about due dates and upcoming events in the face-to-face class, this type of communication is also important for the online environment. The announcement tool provides a podium for the instructor to dispense information to the entire class. Moodle provides the "News Forum" tool in each online course which enables the instructor to easily post an announcement to all students. The instructor's message is emailed to each student's ISU address and is also posted in the "Latest News" block of the course. You may want to change the name of the "News Forum" to something like "Announcements" and check the settings for the forum to ensure that it is set to "Forced subscription". Suggestions for announcements:
    • Messages at the start of each new week to give students a summary of what will be covered, what the expectations are for participation, and perhaps point them to an item of special interest posted within that week. This will remind students to log in after the weekend and will get them motivated to start working on the assignments.
    • Reminders or clarification on frequently asked questions or areas that the class as a whole seems to be struggling with. For example, if APA style is expected across all assignments, but several students are not using it, you could post something like: "Remember to use APA style in all written assignments. For more information about APA style refer to the following website." Using an announcement for this purpose ensures that all students are given the same important information.
  • Question and Answer Area: This area has been given many different names: Conference Area; Muddiest Point; Water Cooler; or simply Q&A. The Q&A provides a place for students to raise their questions or concerns about the course as a whole or about a specific topic such a where to find a certain resource or for clarification on an assignment. Encourage students to ask questions here instead of emailing them directly to the instructor because the answers may be beneficial to not only themselves but their classmates as well. Having a Q&A area also prevents the same questions from being asked many times and promotes consistent and fair feedback because it ensures that the instructor gives exactly the same answer to all students. To set up the Q&A area, add a simple forum to the main block of the course (the block that contains the course syllabus and News Forum) and in the description explain to the students what this forum will be used for. The instructor may also want to choose "forced subscription" to this forum.
  • Feedback/Comments on Assignments: Students need personal interaction and input from their instructor. A marked grade often does not give enough direction to students to improve their work. Feedback may come in the form of a returned document that the instructor has opened and made annotations on, or it could simply be a typed comment in the feedback box of the graded assignment. To provide an area for feedback and/or comments, when setting up the assignment in Moodle choose the type of instructor feedback under the "Feedback Type" section.
  • Rubrics: To ease student anxiety about how they will be graded on their discussion posts and assignments, use a rubric to list the expectations for a specific grade or point allotment. The implementation of a rubric will assist the instructor with providing fair, consistent, specific, and effective feedback within the course. When grading a long assignment, the instructor can include references to a specific area of the rubric to explain the mark that the student received. The Assignment Activity in Moodle allows the instructor to create and use a rubric as an advanced grading method. The students can have access to the rubric so that they know what the grading criteria will be. For more information access the Handout on using a Rubric Grading Method in Moodle.

More information on improving teacher to student interaction:

A three-minute clip, Interact with Students featuring the program chair from Penn State World Campus, that summarizes how and why faculty involvement with students online differs from, and is just as crucial as in face-to-face classrooms.

How to Provide Fair and Effective Feedback in Asynchronous Courses, provides three solid strategies for communicating with online students, as a class and individually.

Speaking’ to Students with Audio Feedback in Online Courses is about providing feedback to online students using audio feedback for student assignments in place of written feedback.

More Essential and Helpful Resources for Online Instructors - online learning insights blog.

Slideshare presentation, Rubrics for College – The Easy Steps Way,  provides a good overview of rubrics that instructors can create for students—tools that provide clarity and guidelines for student assignments and assessments. The presentation covers the why, and the how of rubric implementation applicable to face-to-face and online environments.

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