IMPROVING INTERACTIVITY IN ONLINE COURSES
Bronx Community College/The City University of New York, Associate Professor, Business & Information Systems Department 3/2001 CUNY Online has been made possible by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. It is a pilot program that helped establish a central asynchronous learning network infrastructure for the entire CUNY system. Under the pilot program, BIS 13: Introduction to the Internet and Web Page Development was designed and developed in the fall semester of 1999. Blackboard has been used for tools for teaching and learning online.
Responsiveness is the key to successful online courses. Engaging students online is facilitated by adding interactivity to a course. Interactivity comes from the interplay between course documents, communication tools and assessment tools. When I added a new course document on a weekly basis, I was posting a new topic in the communication that refers to the document and may create a quiz or survey in the assessment area that measures the student's critical understanding of the information in the document. Common ways to add interactivity that are unique to the online experience include announcements, E-mail, a discussion board for asynchronous communication, a student drop box through which students send their assignments, and a virtual classroom for synchronous communications (real-time chat), and a student roster with E-mail addresses.
The following strategies have enhanced online participation:
1. Make class participation a significant part of the students' grade (30%). Communicate expectations as to acceptable quality and quantity of participation.
2. Increase participation and feedback--I post messages and discussion questions into my courses, then monitor and ensure students are responding in a positive way. Students interact with me and other students at least 3-5 times per week and ensure they are meeting the requirements of the course including weekly assignments.
3. Build communication and understanding--Ask open-ended questions in bulletin board discussions and post to discussions frequently. Topics for forums can include Q & A, assignments, and peer reviews (assign students the task of responding to two or three peer responses). Have students post biographical information to the discussion board at the beginning of the semester. This networking often results in student/student mentoring.
4. Use virtual chat as a tool to enhance and encourage a sense of community in online classes.
5. Develop teambuilding--Group projects using E-mail and chat rooms improved group collaborative experiences.
6. Provide an overview of assignments due for each week. This weekly agenda helped keep students working as a cohort.
7. Promote exploration and discovery--Post relevant links on the Web.
8. Generate student evaluations--In order to examine the student learning experiences in taking online courses, a combination of quantitative and qualitative data was collected. Students completed surveys at the 4th week, 7th week and the end of the course (15th week).
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