Building Community in an Online Class

Building a sense of community with online learners.

Sometimes things are easier said than done!  How do you make a connection with students and build a community – when you never see them?!  Unlike face-to-face courses, you don’t usually get to meet (in person) your students in an online course.  How can you help make your online students feel comfortable and confident when interacting with the course, fellow students, and the instructor?

Luckily, we have a few ideas on how to help instructors to build class community in their online courses.

Why?

A lot of research is out there that concludes that when students feel connected and apart of a community they are more likely to be successful in the course.  Courses that have community and promote a constructivist and/or social context approach to teaching and learning lead to increased student success rates.  

What

Activities that help build a sense of class community (early the course) fall into three general categories:

  • Social Activities which focus on self-expression
  • Cognitive activities which focus on academic and professional goals.
  • “Getting Started” activities that allow students to become familiar with the course and technology.

Each of these types of activities develops social presence, promote learner engagement, and opens communication (oscqr.org, 2019).  

How

  • Use an icebreaker to start off your course!
  • Post a question in a forum – first student answers the question and asks the next – this continues until all students have answered and asked a question.  Instructor answers the final question.
  • Create an informal open [Zoom, Google Hangouts, Moodle Chat] space where students can meet and discuss course-related topics.
  • Update your profile page and ask/assign your students to do the same!
  • Participate in all the introductory and getting started activities!  Instructors should model what they would expect students to share.
  • Use a positive tone!
  • Use Digital Posters for Online Community Introductions

Explore further

Jones, P., Naugle, K., & Kolloff, M. (2008). Teacher presence: Using introductory videos in hybrid and online coursesLearning Solutions.

McIntyre, C. (2004). Shared Online and Face-to-Face Pedagogies: Crossing the Brick-and-Click Divide. Educational Technology, 44(1), 61-63.

Russo, T. C., & Campbell, S. W. (2004). Perceptions of mediated presence in an asynchronous online course: Interplay of communication behaviors and mediumDistance Education, 25(2), 215 – 232.

Widmeyer, W. N. & Loy, J. W. (1988). When you’re hot, you’re hot! Warm-cold effects in first impressions of persons and teaching effectivenessJournal of Educational Psychology, 80(1), 118-121.

Getting Started with Online Course Instruction

Online training available!  The Instructional Design team has released Getting Started with Online Course Design.  This course is an introductory course to teaching online at Lane Community College.  This course is highly recommended for instructors who are new to teaching online and/or instructors who would like a refresher on online teaching strategies.  All interested LCC faculty can join!

Being an effective, online instructor requires a set of skills that are similar to those required in the face-to-face classroom. The online instructor must be able to build community while having little to no face-to-face contact, offer clear, regular (weekly), and informative feedback, communicate effectively in a medium that lacks body language and tone of voice, as well as use instructional strategies that are independent of time and space to support student learning. The added aspect of the required technologies, like the Learning Management System (LMS)/Moodle, also comes into play.

This course will introduce you to the many facets of online instruction as you build skills in four areas: technical, managerial, social, and pedagogical. Finally, to synthesize all you have learned, you will build an instructional Checklist to help guide your ongoing online instructional needs.

Course Outcomes

  • Articulate the principles and best practices of online course instruction.
  • Mold course participants into effective online learners by understanding learning styles and teaching strategies to meet their needs.
  • Encourage participation in the online environment using best practices and through a variety of online tools.
  • Enhance and strengthen online learning by using different instructional strategies and creating interactive course components that foster collaboration.
  • Follow strategies for managing your time using tools and effective classroom management strategies to help organize and maintain the online classroom.
  • Identify assessment and feedback strategies, tools to support assessment, grading, and prevention of plagiarism in the online environment.

Enroll in Getting Started with Online Instruction

Get Ready for Online Readiness!

Online Student Readiness is a passion project of mine. (Others have hobbies, I hear). There are dozens of factors that have an impact on whether a student can succeed in an online course in any given term, and only a few of these are within the control of the college. One of these is whether we’re setting students up for success in online by providing training in the skills that the online medium requires.

The short summary:

Starting in Winter 2019, faculty can add our Readiness survey or any one of six individual modules to their classes, refer students to a Moodle “course” that takes an hour and will help prepare students for online, or refer students (through Week 2) to a credit-level Effective Online Learning course to help them succeed in online. This post covers the surveys and modules.

Here are links to all of these resources:

The background:

Continue reading “Get Ready for Online Readiness!”

Early Outreach Tool in Moodle – Pilot Opportunity

Exciting news! Early Outreach is partnering and collaborating with Academic Technology in programming courses in Moodle to auto”magically” send notifications to at-risk students. The Early Outreach Tool will look for students whose course grade are below 70% at weeks 3, 5, and 7 and will send notifications from Early Outreach for support. The ultimate goal is to reach out to students early and often and provide the proper support so they are successful in their course.

Why would I want this Early Outreach tool in my Moodle course(s)?

The PLD will check grades at weeks 3, 5, and 7.  If students grade range is between 0% and 70% the student and early outreach will be notified.
The EO Tool will check grades at weeks 3, 5, and 7. If students grade range is between 0% and 70% the student and early outreach will be notified.

If the Early Outreach tool is successful you would no longer need to manually review your Moodle gradebook and make referrals to early outreach. This saves you time and ensures at-risk students are identified early and often. This is a win for instructors and a win for students!

What is the Early Outreach tool going to do and what do instructors need to do?

The “Early Outreach tool” will send an email and force an alert on your course to all students who have between a 0-70% course total at specific times during the year. The tool will check student grades on Monday at 8am on Weeks 3, 5, and 7 of the Winter term. The email/alert will communicate to students that they are at risk based on current course total and requests they meet with Early Outreach for support.

What do instructors need to do:

  • Nothing you are not already doing!!!
  • Keep an updated Moodle gradebook. Understand alerts go out Monday at 8am – it is essential the gradebook be accurate in order to target truly at-risk students.
  • Communicate with me if you find anything not working or if you have any concerns or questions.
  • Share any feedback on how the implementation of this tool impacted students.

Want more info?

If you would like to learn more about how we are using PLD to program early alerts or have other questions – please feel free to ask me! I would be happy to review the tool and student experience and answer any questions you may have.

Interested?

Just let me know (steevesk@lanecc.edu)!  I will need to know what Winter CRNs you would like the tool implemented.

Who/What are Instructional Designers?

What are Instructional Designers?

https://teachonline.asu.edu/2013/10/introducing-the-asu-instructional-designers/

Though the instructional designer position is new to LCC, Instructional Designers have been around since World War II when psychologists and academics worked together to create training and assessments for troops (O’Malley, 2017).  Today most colleges have instructional designers – 13,000 instructional designers are employed across US colleges (Intentional Futures, 2016).  If you were to ask any of them what they do they would probably categorize their work as:

  • Training
  • Supporting instructors and students
  • Designing online and hybrid courses.
  • Project management
  • Research

If you ask me – I would include a 6th category:

  • Superhero

Essentially, these can all be wrapped up into a mile high theme: Student Success.

At Lane, an Instructional Designer is a faculty member dedicated to helping interested LCC faculty make effective use of the web and related technologies as part of the teaching-learning process. Within this role, we are prepared to work as information resources, facilitators, consultants, advocates, troubleshooters, liaisons, advisers, and leaders.

IDServices currently has a team of three Instructional Designers; Meredith Keene, Jenn Kepka and Kevin Steeves.  We are here to assist you with the logistics of instructional design as it applies to online and hybrid coursework. Our areas of expertise covers course structure and building, ADA compliance, pedagogy, the use of Open Education Resources, multimedia, graphics and more.

At Lane we are a team of Instructional Designers that are focused on how to help faculty make the best online courses for our students.  We do this by following a set of best practice guidelines published by Open SUNY Center for Online Teaching Excellence and Online Learning Consortium known as OSCQR.

We collaborate with faculty

We love to have this conversation:  I currently do ___ in my course and I would like to do ___.  How do I make it happen?  We love to collaborate with other faculty and work together to achieve results. 

We offer training

We love it when departments ask us to deliver training!  We offer a wide selection of workshops that can be delivered face-to-face, online, or through a webinar.

We support faculty

We get pumped when an instructor learns a new tool that will help their students!  Either through drop-ins at the ATC, email, or a phone call – we are here to help!  We follow the Michael Levick philosophy of being a “one-stop-shop”.  If we can’t help you – we will find out who can.

Still wondering what is an instructional designer and who we are?  Come on over (Center Building – 208) and well buy you a coffee and brainstorm!  We will also have our own website soon!

References

Intentional Futures (2016, April). Instructional design in higher education: A report on the role, workflow, and experience of instructional designers. Intentional Futures. Retrieved from https://intentionalfutures.com.

O’Malley, Sharon. (2017). What Do Instructional Designers Do? Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/.