Students are required to contribute to group projects. Working and communicating together makes them part of community building: collaborative experiences as well as interpersonal, socializing experiences.
Lesson example: Students will work with partners and collaborate on assignments. They will interact with each other, discussing and evaluating and helping each other with their work.
Many lessons will attempt to include illustrations (visual), sound/voice (aural) , read/write (written materials), and a chance to do or teach what they have learned (kinesthetic).
Lesson example: Student will work with a partner. Each partner will attempt to explain to the other a principle of constructing an essay. The two partners will also answer a number of directed questions. Initially, they will work only via email or in a discussion area. Later (the next day,) they will be asked to speak to each other, either meeting in person or over the phone to discuss the subject matter. They will later be tested on their knowledge of the subject. In this way, students will be utilizing many of their senses in the learning process.
Intrapersonal Lesson (works alone)
Many lessons require the students to work on their own. Later they may be required to report their findings and enter into discussions with their fellow students. This will demonstrate an understanding of ideas and concepts.
Lesson example: Students work alone, writing essays. When they have completed their assignment they must display them in the discussion area for other students to read and comment on.
Lessons to Improve Students’ Written Communication
Use of both asynchronous threaded discussions and email along with possible synchronous chats will contribute to greatly improving students’ ability to communicate in writing.
Students Create Lessons for Themselves and Each Other
The instructor is not the only one who can create lessons. When students create their own lesson they are involved in the knowledge construction process, they develop multiple ways to think about and solve problems, they have a realistic content for participation in academics, they have ownership and a voice in the learning process, they are part of a social experience (Constructivist Learning Environment, National Educational Computing Conference, “Building on the Future” July 25, 2001 – Chicago, IL)
Lesson example: Students are invited to suggest and create lessons.
The Instructor's Role and Student Learning
The present theory regarding teaching online is that the instructor should be a facilitator of learning, rather than a teacher by rote. The instructor should encourage students to be self-directed: research, explore and discover on their own. The point of this is that when students are participating in a self-directed process, they will attain the greatest learning. The instructor should create lessons that require the students to be active learners
“Some ways to act as a facilitator are, in open forums, don’t lead the discussion, guide the discussion and encourage students to participate. Use short, open ended questions or statements to move them through the discussion, or to reflect on their learning.” (National Teachers Enhancement Network 1999 and Stryker, 1999)
The instructor must also monitor student interaction and lack of interaction. When student participation is less than satisfactory, the instructor must take action to modify the student’s activity or possibly remove the student.
The instructor must also provide clear methods of student assessment.
Steps to Building a Successful Learning Community
In order to create a successful community, students are required to consistently participate in all activities. Many activities relate to community building, such as participation in discussions and working in a group or with a partner. In addition, special areas of interest have been created to encourage students’ participation in the community including the game area, the student web site area, and an open discussion forum.
To encourage the community, students are required to be respectful of each other by following rules for participating in online discussions. They are encouraged to initiate discussions in the open discussion forum. They will have the opportunity to create a set of rules for participating in online discussion.
Dr. Roger Powley, states the following activities in order to foster community building activities:
Progressive round table discussions (Post a question and everyone responds.)
Assign and also allow students to team up with partners or teams for help or to participate in a project.
Communicating with Each Student
I expect to communicate with each student at least twice a week: once in our face-to-face meeting and once online. It is particularly important that young students know they are both being held accountable and being supported by their teacher. The online environment makes it easier to directly address each student either by email, discussion thread, or alternative communication. Students’ messages and emails should be responded to promptly. If there is a problem, I plan to take whatever steps are necessary to resolve it quickly.
Motivating Students and Keeping Them on Task.
This course is optional for students. It requires students to apply to take it. Therefore, only students who have demonstrated that they have a high level of motivation to participate will be selected. In addition, the course utilizes good teaching practices to motivate and keep students focused on their tasks. The course contains clear standards to hold each student to. The lessons and assignments are clearly written and every attempt is made to make sure students understand what is expected of them. There are realistic time periods set aside for work to be done. I will provide prompt feedback to students. Students are constantly aware of their progress and grade status.
Communicating Standards to Students
Standards are posted in the syllabus and in each lesson regarding what is expected. They are presented as goals of the lesson and in the form of a grading rubric. In addition, feedback is given to students in the form of direct contact and through work that has been evaluated.
Assessments should be used not only for the purposes of determining and providing grades but also as a teaching tool. My course provides many forms of assessments: quizzes, writing assignments, participation in various activities. Prior to each assessment, students are provided with a rubric or expectations. In this way, the assessment helps to direct the students’ learning experiences, requiring that they understand certain information in order to be successful on tests. In addition, students take assessments and later discuss and compare their answers with other students and their teacher. Going through this process, ultimately, enhances student cognition.