Developing Community

Dr. Mark Kassel from Robert Moores University outlined a few ways to establish presence online: announcements, email, outline expectations, personal videos, include personal perspective, discussions, summarise students’ points and add own perspective, greater presence at the start of the course in discussions e.g. 50%, but less later on to avoid the instructor dominating the discussions (Kassel, 2011).

Other behaviours and strategies for improving instructor presence online: encourage questions; refer to students by name; represent the most important information in multiple ways e.g. text, image, and video. Instructors should be clear about how they wish to be contacted and how quickly they will respond; track student log-ins – contact students through email who appear to be struggling, telephone students who seem to have disappeared. Send a copy of announcements posted in a LMS by email; give students the option to receive notifications from via text, upload the syllabus into VoiceThread  or Movenote which enables a ‘human’ overview. Include captions or transcripts alongside videos that will be used more than once (CSU Channel Islands).

I would use personal videos at the start of the course, at the start of each module and at the end of the course. The videos should reflect me and my personal perspective. Making my expectations clear, the objectives clear, how I wish to be contacted and how quickly I will respond will be important just as it is with ‘f2f’classes. I would use a tool such as Skype, ooVoo, or JoinMe to meet with students at the start of the course, and at other times if necessary. The use of an ‘icebreaker’ at the start of the course e.g. pose questions, get students to answer, ask them to introduce themselves to a fellow learner with similar answers as in ‘LineUp’ (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011, p.56). The use of students’ names would be very important just as it is in a classroom course. I would need to log on frequently, post weekly reminders, updates or information, post announcements via LMS, email, or other tool. Check student log-ins, contact students through email who seem to be struggling and telephone students who seem to have disappeared. The most important information should be given in multiple ways e.g. text, image, and video to meet differing learning styles.  A balance of being an active moderator of online discussion but at the same time not getting too involved should be an aim, generally as Mark Kassel said, more involvement at the start, less later on. This does not mean not monitoring the discussions; monitoring needs to be frequent so that any problems can be identified. For example if students are ‘at war’ in a discussion forum, if inappropriate comments are made, or if one or two students are dominating the discussion I would need to enter the discussion as a moderator. If the discussions have stalled then I could comment positively to motivate, or post an applicable question or summarise students’ points and add my own perspective to generate a response, if someone has posted a question and no one has answered I could post a response or post resources to help the learners find the answer.

The class composition would need to be considered e.g. mainly ‘digital natives’ or ‘digital immigrants’? This should be considered because it might affect levels of comfort with different technology. For example, digital immigrants may prefer emails whereas digital natives may prefer text.  Attention should be paid to fear of privacy and security; the school policy should be made available on the course site. The technical team’s contact information should be shared at the start of the course. The course should go live a few days before the actual start so that learners have the opportunity to log-in and address any technical issues before the official course start date.  The technical competence of learners would need to be considered so that activities are appropriate and/or support can be given.

John Heap and Brian Kelly stated that barriers to building online community include a difference in younger people accepting new ideas and technology more readily than older people, fear of privacy and security, hardware and software issues, functionality of web tools, and technical competence of learners. (Heap & Kelly, 2015)

References:

Conrad, R. and Donaldson, J. (2011). Engaging the Online Learner. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

CSU Channel Islands. (n.d.). Behaviors & Strategies for Improving Instructor Presence in Online Classes. Retrieved from http://page.teachingwithoutwalls.com/instructorpresencestrategiesci 

Heap, J. and Kelly, B. (2015). Building Online Communities: The Barriers and the Bruises. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/1387027/Building_Online_Communities_The_Barriers_and_the_Bruises

Kassel, M. Dr. (2011) Teaching Presence in Online Learning. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9izxQXDgkNA