Helen Donaghue & Helen Thompson
Parallel session 1, Short Paper 1.3
Distance students often experience isolation and lack of motivation and instructors designing and delivering online courses also face challenges such as adapting to new learning models, using technologies and supporting and engaging students. This presentation describes how learning communities built for both students and instructors helped address these issues.
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This presentation will outline challenges experienced by students and instructors involved in an online distance learning environment. The presenters will describe innovations to an online master’s course which aimed to build a sense of community for distance students. Changes included formalising an orientation package, increasing instructor presence, introducing more interactive and collaborative tasks, exploiting virtual meeting rooms and adding video lectures with embedded tasks. We will also describe how instructors were trained and supported via a community of practice model.
Session participants will have the opportunity to share their own ideas and experiences of engaging online students. The presenters will conclude with recommendations for tutors planning or developing online or blended courses.
This ‘thunderstorm’ session outlines an on-going attempt to promote distance-learner engagement with formative coursework via the introduction of Twitter as a task medium. Study guides used in distance-learning modules often ask students to complete tasks that aren’t summatively assessed, for example, tasks in which students respond to each others contributions critically and positively. If engagement wanes, fewer students will post and students may be reluctant to go back to check discussion boards after posting, negating the potential for a true discussion developing. Without the powerful motivator of grades, it’s essential that we make these tasks as user-friendly and engaging as possible. One possible barrier to student engagement is the sometimes cumbersome nature of virtual learning environment user interfaces. Twitter’s raison d’ être is to facilitate interaction between individuals. Unsurprisingly, then, tweeting is a far easier task (quicker and more efficient) than navigating through SHUspace. The instantaneous nature of tweeting should make it more likely that authentic and spontaneous discussion will break out amongst the student group. The process of integrating Twitter into coursework, as well as unforeseen challenges that have emerged, will be discussed.
Link to presentation: Promoting distance learner engagement with formative coursework
B5 – (EN07, EN02, EN14) 11.50