Two ways you can enhance your online course (If you are not doing it already)
Author: Sunay PalsoleAssistant Vice Chancellor for Engineering Remote Education
Like most faculty, you likely were thrown into the ocean of technology tools to aid you in the transition to either online or remote learning due to the COVID shutdown in spring 2020. Going into fall 2020, there was the slight hope that we might move back into something closer to the old normal of teaching, but that was not to be. So you buckled down, perhaps attended a few workshops from eSAIL or AI, and developed your online course.
Structure and organization of the course has been shown to be an important part of the online learning experience in that it helps the students stay organized, and courses with strong structure show higher levels of satisfaction. But in addition to good structure and organization, there is a human element to learning, as highlighted by research and recent surveys about the student experience in online courses. The one big differentiating factor between students who took an online course in the past and those taking online courses now is agency. With the big move to online and technology-enhanced learning, the students have had very little agency in selecting courses, which can affect their motivation to perform well. Additionally, students may not be prepared to manage the differentiated work planning that is involved in learning from home.
You can do some small things to increase student engagement and potentially improve outcomes for your online course.
- Provide frequent assessments (formative and summative) interspersed throughout the course. Research and recent survey data have shown that students in online courses especially need ways to keep them motivated to participate in their learning. Since they may not have had complete agency in choosing this mode of learning, providing ways for them to demonstrate their own mastery can be a good motivating factor to keep them engaged1. The key to remember is to have variety in the methods you choose to help students practice and demonstrate mastery. Some ideas might be to use a variety of short assessments (multiple choice quizzes, match the following, hotspot quizzes, short answers) every week to let the students discover mastery of their own learning. Publisher databanks, while not always robust, can help in this scenario. Letting students earn badges for point levels can also be a great engagement tool .
- Add opportunities for student-student interaction and social learning. Numerous studies have surfaced the student’s need for a high degree of instructor-student interaction as being critical to online success . But spring survey data at A&M report the students missing a sense of community. In fact, another recent local research study showed that the students reported that the loss of their ability to organize study groups and/or organic learning opportunities led to a greater underperformance in online courses than loss of other kinds of interaction. So integrating multiple interactions in the course will lead to great engagement and satisfaction . One way to increase community and interaction is creating discussion boards within the LMS for students to share casual information. Build assignments that require student-student interactions, and – importantly — be sure to include ways for students to report their collaboration. Use, adopt and encourage free or low cost third party tools that let students create communities. (Yammer, which is integrated in O365, is a good example.)
While planning and organization are critical to success in online courses, adding social elements to your course humanizes learning, which is key to retention and success.
For help with building new online courses or enhancing one you may have, contact eSAIL at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hulleman, C., Schrager, S., Bodmann, S., & Harackiewicz, J. (2010). A meta-analytic review of achievement goal measures: Different labels for the same constructs or different constructs with similar labels? Psychological Bulletin, 136(3), 422.
- Fanshawe, Melissa, Nicole Delaney, and Alwyn Powell. “Utilizing Instantaneous Feedback to Promote Self-Regulated Learning in Online Higher Education Courses: The Case for Digital Badges.” Technology-Enhanced Formative Assessment Practices in Higher Education. IGI Global, 2020. 41-59.
- Kyei-Blankson, L., Ntuli, E. & Donnelly, H. (2019). Establishing the Importance of Interaction and Presence to Student Learning in Online Environments. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 30(4), 539-560. Waynesville, NC: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE). Retrieved September 29, 2020 from https://www.learntechlib.org/primary/p/161956/.
- Muljana, Pauline S., and Tian Luo. “Factors contributing to student retention in online learning and recommended strategies for improvement: A systematic literature review.” Journal of Information Technology Education: Research 18 (2019)