Rigor in the Online Classroom
Online education is growing at an incredible rate. The technology is new for both students and instructors. The success of online courses depends on students receiving quality instruction equal to that of face-to-face delivery. It is up to the online instructor to conduct rigorous courses that offer ample opportunity to learn.
Methods that Work
Some students and even professors have been guilty of having misconceptions of the online classroom. While the online medium is, and should be, lifestyle friendly, that does not mean that eLearning is any easier than traditional learning. In fact, online learning may be much more challenging.
The majority of online courses offered today are asynchronous, allowing both students and instructors to sign-on, read, and complete tasks at a time that best fits their schedules.
The students must adhere to guidelines set forth by the instructor, and most institutions require that students sign on a minimum of three times a week.
Set Up Areas for Free Discussion, Favorite Sites
In every online course it is helpful to set-up a Student Lounge or free area. Direct the students to use this area for any non-course related communications. This does several things; it keeps unnecessary chitchat out of the threaded discussion and it gives the student another reason to log on just to see what others are saying. By the end of the course students will utilize this feature an amazing number of times.
Another tactic to encourage students to visit the site often is setting up an area for "Interesting URLs" Gather a list of 10-12 web sites you have found on your "surfing trips" and sprinkle them in during the course. Ask the students to share sites that they have found interesting. Students appreciate this feature and the instructor may find some useful sites to visit as well.Rigor in the Classroom
The instructor has to lead by example. The instructor's connect time to the teaching platform must exceed that of the students. An effective instructor will connect six or seven days a week in order to maintain appropriate contact with the students. So, the most rigorous involvement is that of the instructor. Students will have incentive to increase their activity just because they know the instructor is so active.
Here is a list of ways to involve students:
A standard tactic is to answer a question with a question. For the purposes of a well-developed discussion this is a good way to respond. It will cause the students to deeply explore the topic rather than settle for a superficial answer. Often just a tossed-up, "Class?" works extremely well.
The concept of "praising in public and rebuking in private" is a good one. If a student is not active send a private e-mail restating the requirements of the course and encouraging participation. Some instructors may feel this is not their responsibility, however this will improve the classroom experience for all. Scheduling synchronous office hour(s) at a regular time will also encourage involvement. Keeping office-hours dialogue focused on course content will have a positive outcome.
Maintaining rigor is the responsibility of all online instructors. The success of online education depends on equal or a higher standards than can be found in face-to-face delivery. The future of online education is in your hands.