One of the most common questions about distance learning is how to ensure academic integrity during exams. After all, students at a distance have ample opportunity to consult unauthorized resources or even engage another person to take an exam for them. The concern over this possibility has grown more acute in recent years, when federal regulations mandating verification of student identity came to the forefront as part of an increased emphasis on quality.
Threaded discussions are a crucial part of most online learning models. By composing comments and posting them to a discussion board, students in online classes demonstrate their comprehension of what they are learning; they reflect on how their response to the course content compares with the responses of their peers and, critically, they gain experience articulating their thoughts in writing.
Formative assessment is important in any learning environment. In the face-to-face classroom, the instructor can fairly easily gauge student understanding by their facial expressions, the questions they ask, and their responses to questions, and then he or she can provide appropriate feedback and support. Formative assessment in the online classroom needs to be more structured and planned to provide learners with this feedback.
Gamification became a hot topic in education when it was discovered that games are ideal learning instruments. We think of students’ amazing dexterity in navigating virtual worlds as somehow innate, but in reality they have learned quickly because of fundamental design considerations that can apply to formal education as well.
Icebreakers can help promote the important social component of online learning. Common icebreakers have students share information about themselves with the idea of creating a bit of conversation and perhaps provide fodder for course-related discussions later in the course.
Online discussion has tremendous potential to engage students, develop written communication skills, and promote learning. Unfortunately, discussion boards often fall short, resulting in perfunctory posts and comments and surface treatment of the issues. If discussions, online or otherwise, are to endure and change thinking, they must be notable.