Last week, we talked about the social nature of learning theory and how this can play out in the online learning environment context. This week, we will flesh out what what this might mean for us as we design and deliver distance education courses. For instance, studies have shown that the design and delivery of an online course with an emphasis on a more social environment and exchange of ideas could help the online learner feel less in isolation (Hughes, Ventura, & Dando, 2007; Cornelius & Glasgow, 2007). Courses that are not designed and facilitated in a way that leverages what we know about how learners best learn in a social context suffer the consequences of ultimately less learning taking place (Havard, Du, & Xu, 2008) and must account for social gaps that could theoretically be more easily addressed in a face-to-face context due to the close proximity of participants in a room together.
Beyond the scope of the course design and delivery there are practices that online learning instructors can leverage that have been shown to enhance learner engagement and interaction with the course content, fellow learners and with the course facilitator and thus enhance both the experience of the online learner as well as the learning outcomes (Fish & Wickersham, 2009). Lesh (2001) outlines the importance of instructors clear expectation disclosure regarding coursework interaction. It is the instructor’s critical role to both cultivate and moderate meaningful interaction while providing timely and constructive feedback to the learner (Phipps & Merisotis, 2000).
Online learning instructors have used such tools as discussion threads, educational blogs, wikis, announcements, email, instant messenger, synchronous virtual classrooms, podcasts, journals, grade feedback, virtual office hours, phone communication, video conferencing, and a diverse host of Web 2.0 and social networking tools to accomplish such interaction and feedback. How about you? How have you experienced or demonstrated high levels of social engagement and interaction in the online context?
- Cornelius, F., & Glasgow, M. E. S. (2007). The development and infrastructure needs required for success – one college’s model: Online nursing education at Drexel University. TechTrends, 57(6), 32-35.
- Fish, W., & Wickersham, L.. (2009). Best practices for online instructors: Reminders. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 10(3), 279-284,319-320.
- Havard, B., Du, J., & Xu, J.. (2008). Online Collaborative Learning and Communication Media. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 19(1), 37-50.
- Hughes, M., Ventura, S., & Dando, M. (2007). Assessing social presence in online discussion groups: a replication study. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 44(1), 17-29.
- Lesh, S. G. (2001). Evidence-based asynchronous learning best practices. The 7th Sloan-C international conference on online learning: Emerging standards of excellence in asynchronous learning networks. http://www.sloan-c.org/conference/proceedings/2001/ppt/01_lesh.ppt
- Phipps, R.A., & Merisotis, J. P. (2000) Remedial Education in Colleges and Universities: What’s Really Going On? The Review of Higher Education 24(1) 67-85
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