With every new semester instructors get an opportunity to look closely at their courses. It’s a kind of Spring cleaning, out with the old in with the new. However, I was recently in a webinar that introduced too many new technologies at once and the webinar flopped. Let’s not get flashy, after all it is the learning that’s the focus, not the educational tools.

Try introducing any one of these ideas to give your online course a fresh start while adding a slightly different approach to the way thin
gs have been done and see how it goes.

  1. Actively promote student use of benefits of personal avatars. This leads to more active discussion and a more personal experience building a stronger learning community.
  2. Reach out to students who are very active online and ask them to help you spark up discussion from those who aren’t so active. Ask them to give positive feedback to comments made by those who may otherwise trickle into discussion board oblivion.
  3. Have students post video responses, not just type. This is a more engaging medium from the creation to the discussion stage.
  4. Contact students personally who lack presence in discussions and group activities. Some students are not as intrinsically motivated as others and that sense of the instructor cares can go a long way.
  5. Instructor presence. There is no ratio as to how much you have to contribute, but there definitely is an unspoken minimum. At the very least, keep adding a simple comment or guidance in discussion forums to remind students I am here and I am very interested in your comments. So, ramp it up a bit and get more involved this term.

These five approaches to a new semester in online teaching are not new and do not involve much technical savvy, just a reminder of the importance of the basics and to fully utilize what we already have in our toolbox.

Cheers and have a great semester!

Ken Harmel, M.Ed. (Distance Education)fresh_start_main1


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