Thursday, July 18, 2013

The 'Quiet' Online Student

We have all had quiet students in our classes. They are the students who don't raise their hand, don't participate in the class discussions, and are hesitant to offer their opinions. Quiet students can be found not only in face-to-face settings but also in the online environment. A student may be 'quiet' because they are an introvert and don't feel comfortable speaking in front of a group; they may be confused by the topic and don't want to show their ignorance; or they may need extra time to reflect on a subject before responding. The online classroom can provide many benefits to the 'quiet' student.

Dr. Curtis Bonk, professor of education at Indiana University and author of The World is Open: How Web Technology is Revolutionizing Education describes several ways that an online learning environment can benefit the 'quiet' student:

  1. Online learning allows the student time to think and compose a thoughtful response.
  2. Students who are slow to respond may simply be giving other students the opportunity to go first. Online learning allows them to do this and still have the chance to be heard when they are ready.
  3. Online learning allows those students who strive for perfection the time to refine their ideas before they are shared therefore taking some of the stress out of the activity.
  4. An online class is a safe environment to share ideas because they can be edited unlike a face-to-face class in which once something has been said it cannot be taken back.
  5. Creative expression can be amplified by tools available on the Web. Students are free to share their ideas through different formats.
  6. Instructors have access to an abundant variety of course resources through open education that can supply the students with an academic space rich in video, audio, and pictorial resources instead of allowing text to be the predominate delivery method. (May 3, 2013, Quiet: Susan Cain on Introverted Students).
According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, the starting point for instructors is to view a quiet online student not as a passive, unresponsive person, but as a student with something to say and contribute if given the opportunity and the right environment.