Some Thoughts on Student Engagement in an Online Course
Dr. Susan Fiorentino
Assistant Professor of Management
Coordinator, M.S. in Human Resource Management
I have been teaching in an online format for a little over a year, and like most professors who have transitioned to online teaching, my experience has been one of trial and error. Initially, I shared the skepticism of many who expressed concern about how to engage students in a distance education environment. The truth is, I love having faces—real faces—in front of me when I teach. So for me, I wanted to make engagement with students a priority.
This fall, the university launched a new Master of Science in Human Resource Management, which is being offered in a 100% online format. The challenge for any new program is to help students form a sense of community for learning, and this can be especially difficult in a new online program. Student engagement within the online course is critical, as students don’t have the opportunity to interact in a face-to-face setting.
There are a number of ways to increase student engagement, but I’d like to share one particular video learning app that I have found very helpful. Practice, formerly ApprenNet, is an educational tool that allows students to apply what they have learned in a class and to share it with other students for feedback. I have used Practice in two different ways: 1) as a tool for hypothetical case simulations; and 2) for student presentations.
Case Studies: Practice is ideal for case study simulations. It begins with a “Challenge Video” that is taped by the instructor who poses a hypothetical scenario that the student must solve. The student is then asked to upload a response video to the challenge. Typically, this video is 5-8 minutes in length.
After the student videos are uploaded, each student is required to review 3 other student videos in the class and make constructive comments based on a rubric which the instructor provides. After the review period, the instructor can then post an expert response so that students can see what the ideal answer would entail.
This use of Practice is a great pedagogical tool for an online course, because it provides a means by which students can learn from and evaluate other students in the class. As an aside, it also serves to help students with communicating ideas responsive to a prompt, and to do so in a succinct manner.
I have received great feedback from students about this use of Practice.
Student Presentations: In all of my face-to-face classes, I assign a student presentation component. With the help of the Practice staff, I learned that Practice is a great tool for doing student presentations online as well. So, this past semester I had the students present their research from their final research paper via Practice. First, I posted the Challenge video which outlined the requirements of the presentation. Then each student prepared an 8-10 minute video summarizing their research. After the videos were submitted, students had to watch and evaluate 3 other student research projects. This enabled students to once again learn from other students in the class, and evaluate their work based on my rubric.
General Comments: Overall, I have been so impressed by the support I receive as a Practice user from the Practice staff. There have been many occasions when I have e-mailed late on a Sunday night and receive an instant response from someone. In addition, there is a “help” tab for students and again I have found the response rate to be wonderful.
In short, Practice is an excellent tool to help connect students with other students in the class. It is an integral part of my pedagogical approach in my online courses.
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Jessica holds a Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. While she was a student here at WCU, Jessica was an intern at the IT Help Desk on campus where she gained experience supporting faculty, staff, and students. After graduating, she worked as an IT Support Analyst for a healthcare company. She is excited for this opportunity to return to the WCU Community, and offer quality support to our Distance Education faculty and students. Please join us in welcoming Jessica to the Office of Distance Education! Jessica can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-436-3375.
The Office of Distance Education's first iBook authored by Instructional Designer, Marc Drumm, was selected as a 2016 iBooks Author Conference Award Finalist in the category of 'Best iBook of the Year, Education (School Activities)'. The winner will be announced on Thursday, October 6, at the 2016 iBooks Author Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The iBook, Ten Ways Teachers Tame Twitter, can be downloaded for free using the iBooks App on any Apple Device.
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