Organizing and writing ideas and building presentations can be a taxing and complicated process for students. Writing requires multitasking. When some of these tasks are challenging, they can become overwhelming and can often disrupt the creative flow of ideas. One way to help students focus is to have them blog each writing task.
Project-based learning is a hot topic in education, but most faculty do not understand how to incorporate it into their teaching. The principle is simple: Students learn best when they learn in the process of working toward a goal. The main value of project-based learning is that it teaches students to ask the right questions. Traditional assignments predefine the information that the students will use. Project-based learning puts students into the position of having to determine what information they need by asking the right questions.
The online classroom can sometimes feel like a lonely place due to a lack of presence of the instructor and other students. This lack of presence can negatively affect learning and lead to student attrition. Fortunately, some relatively simple measures can significantly add the essential human element to online courses.
One of the biggest complaints about online courses is that students feel disconnected. They don’t know the teacher or fellow students in the class. In online courses, teachers regularly use discussion to make connections with and between students. In a survey of over 350 faculty, 95 percent used it and 87 percent required student participation in online exchanges. The authors of the paper referenced below used a “Community of Inquiry” framework for their exploration-specific strategies that can be used to build community through discussion in online courses.
Students enter online courses with various levels of knowledge, experience, needs, and expectations. It’s important to get a sense of what students already know in order to provide the appropriate levels of support and challenge.
Participating in team projects offers students the chance to develop interpersonal communication skills (Figueira & Leal, 2013), build relationships with classmates, and increase the level of collective competencies as each group member brings something different to the group. However, in the online environment where the majority of the work occurs asynchronously, students may resist having to work with others (Smith et al., 2011) on graded assignments. Students often say that they do not like group work because they expect that they will have to contribute more than their teammates or that they will have difficulty scheduling times to meet with other group members. They also may be uneasy about being assigned an individual grade based on the work of the team. After teaching fully online courses for the past five years, I offer seven best practices for teamwork in online courses: