Netiquette – or “internet etiquette” refers to the the code of behavior governing respectful and productive online interaction. The infographic below, created by Touro College’s Department of Online Education, highlights 7 key netiquette rules to keep in mind!
Perhaps one of the most attractive features of online learning is its potential for more effectively engaging a diverse student population. But even though online learning environments can flatten many of the social hierarchies that create challenges for some students in face-to-face classrooms, creating engaging virtual environments where students can connect to fellow classmates and participate in meaningful discussions remains a challenge for many faculty. Discussion boards are a key means of encouraging peer interaction in an online class, but too often, discussion boards are often set up in a standard question/response format, and fail to bring students into engaging dialogue. In this blog post, I want to introduce you to some easy-to-use tech tools have the potential to solve this problem, by providing exciting and innovative ways for virtual discussion to take place and increasing student engagement. Read below to learn more about three tech tools that can be especially interesting for students: Padlet, Flipgrid, and Yellowdig.
- Padlet: Padlet is an exciting collaborative tool great for group work, projects, and discussions that’s free for educators and students. You can start by creating a simple visual board, and then students can easily add to the board in a variety of ways including video, images, screen recordings, audio recordings, links, and text. Asking a general guiding question and then leaving the response open-ended for the students can be a great way to stimulate discussions and allow students to respond creatively and in a variety of formats. What’s more, Padlet is easy to embed into a LMS page – simply click on the share button, copy the embed code, and paste it into your LMS page by opening the HTML editor (just look for the button that’s labeled with “<>.”)
- 2. Flipgrid: Flipgrid is a great tool that enables instructors to create video discussion boards. Educators can kick off discussions with a short video outlining the discussion question, and then students can easily respond and debate with each other by recording their own short videos. The focus on a video format introduces a more personal feeling into the virtual classroom by enabling students to see and hear each other, as opposed to an entirely text-based discussion. Like Padlet, Flipgrid is free, and easy to link out to or embed.
- 3. Finally, Yellowdig: Yellowdig is a discussion board tool that can be integrated with Canvas, Blackboard, and other learning managment systems. Yellowdig includes social media features, such as the ability for learners and instructors to @mention each other in comments and posts, hyperlink articles, share videos, like posts, bookmark comments, and #hashtag content. Yellowdig also has a gamification feature, which can automatically track users’ points by monitoring how much they interact with the discussion. The points feature can encourage learners to engage with the discussion and interact beyond minimum requirements. By adding in these new features, Yellowdig is easy to use and engaging for both instructors and students, and can be a step up from the standard LMS discussion boards.
Online discussions are crucial to online learning, and the digital nature of these discussion means that instructors can test out innovative technologies that support student engagement within the context of a totally online space. Padlet, Flipgrid, and Yellowdig are three tech tools that can encourage engaging peer interaction and creative responses. However, the most important means of creating a welcoming and interesting environment for students will always be creative teaching and genuine care for students. By continuing to look for ways to foster human connection in digital spaces, online classes can be the incredible learning experience that they have the potential to be!
Author’s Bio: Chana Goldberg is currently the Presidential Fellow of Online Education at Touro College. She enjoys reading, exploring New York City, and researching education-related topics.
Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by Touro College.
A school’s role is complex and constantly developing. What began as means through which to teach a trade evolved into a forum through which to impart knowledge. Today’s classrooms go beyond these original objectives and are intended to “prepare all students to be active participants in our exciting global community” (Kolk 2011). This new classroom goal is often summarized in “The Four Cs” – Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, and Critical Thinking. A successful teacher will be sure to incorporate these themes into his lessons and classroom design.
However, the Four Cs play a slightly different role in an online course. Not only will students who nurture these skills be equipped to tackle today’s changing society, students who use these strategies in online courses are likely to succeed in a positive, stress-free environment. Check out the tips below to learn how to integrate the Four Cs into your online classroom.
Communication: Both the instructor and students play a significant role in effectively communicating in an online course. Instructors should be careful to create an intuitive course structure, write clear instructions, and effectively communicate their expectations. Students should pay special attention to the syllabus, all announcements, and discussion boards (Johnson 2015).
Commitment: An online course is often more work than a traditional one, not less. Therefore, due to the coupling of hours of school work with unstructured time in which to complete it, online students need to be very self-disciplined and organized in order to do well. Before a course begins, it is wise for students to allocate a proper amount of time each week in which to complete all readings and assignments as well as set aside a fixed location in which to do all schoolwork. Click here to learn more about what it takes to be an online student.
Community: Once again, both the instructors and students contribute to creating a strong sense of community in an online class. Instructors should portray themselves as a personable individual (instead of just a name on a screen) and interact with students personally, as opposed to only sending out mass messages. Students can form a virtual community through interacting with their peers via discussion boards and seeking each other out when they need help with an assignment. These relationships remove feelings of isolation and can dramatically increase a student’s performance in an online course.
Collaboration: The goal of education is not to walk out with a degree; it is to walk out with an education. A crucial component of the learning process to is to interact with learned thoughts and ideas and apply the sometimes intangible concepts. Collaboration is important in an online classroom because it facilitates this aspect of learning. Online students should work with their classmates to hone their critical thinking and analysis as well as to engage in active learning through teaching the information and receiving feedback.
How do you integrate the Four Cs into your online classroom?
The 21st Century Classroom – Where the 3 Rs Meet the 4Cs! by Melinda Kolk on tech4learning.com
In this interesting presentation, Claudia Dornbusch of Facilitador.com demonstrates how to promote learner interactivity in a synchronous classroom. Topics include maximizing visual and whiteboard potential, chat and breakout sessions, and polls and audio discussions.
While these suggestions are intended for employee training sessions, the concepts can be implemented in higher level higher education as well.
E-learning: How to deliver an engaging Virtual Classroom presentation by Claudia Dornbusch
In Can You Flip an Online Class? on FacultyFocus.com, Barbi Honeycutt and Sarah Glova advocate a redefinition of the term “flip” in order to implement the winning techniques into a purely digital learning environment. They argue that a flipped classroom’s strength lies in its’ focus on students, not the actual class time perimeters.
A flipped classroom – whether traditional or online – is one which practices student centered learning.
With this definition, class time structure is no longer the primary feature of a flipped classroom. Rather, the core element is a course’s utilization of interactive activities, personalized instruction, and an engaging atmosphere. These are tangible characteristics which can be applied in an online classroom.
Consider these techniques to focus on your students:
- Encourage students to contribute additional resources to class discussions.
- Ask students to tell you about their personal learning styles. That way, you can have an estimation of how your class learns and how to best serve their needs.
- Vary the type of assignments so that they play to different students’ strengths.
- Create dynamic discussion boards. It is always beneficial for students to express themselves.
How have you flipped your online classroom?
“Netiquette” refers to rules of etiquette that apply to online communication.
Follow these 15 rules of netiquette to make sure you sound respectful, polite, and knowledgeable when you post to your class’s online discussion boards.
- Before posting your question to a discussion board, check if anyone has asked it already and received a reply. Just as you wouldn’t repeat a topic of discussion right after it happened in real life, don’t do that in discussion boards either.
- Stay on topic – Don’t post irrelevant links, comments, thoughts, or pictures.
- Don’t type in ALL CAPS! If you do, it will look like you’re screaming.
- Don’t write anything that sounds angry or sarcastic, even as a joke, because without hearing your tone of voice, your peers might not realize you’re joking.
- Always remember to say “Please” and “Thank you” when soliciting help from your classmates.
- Respect the opinions of your classmates. If you feel the need to disagree, do so respectfully and acknowledge the valid points in your classmate’s argument. Acknowledge that others are entitled to have their own perspective on the issue.
- If you reply to a question from a classmate, make sure your answer is accurate! If you’re not 100% sure when the paper is due, DO NOT GUESS! Otherwise, you could really mess things up for your classmates and they will not appreciate it.
- If you ask a question and many people respond, summarize all answers and post that summary to benefit your whole class.
- Be brief. If you write a long dissertation in response to a simple question, it’s unlikely that anyone will spend the time to read through it all.
- Don’t badmouth others or call them stupid. You may disagree with their ideas, but don’t mock the person.
- If you refer to something your classmate said earlier in the discussion, quote justa few key lines from their post so that others wont have to go back and figure out which post you’re referring to.
- Before asking a question, check the class FAQs or search the internet to see if the answer is obvious or easy to find.
- Check the most recent comments before you reply to an older comment, since the issue might have already been resolved or opinions may have changed.
- Be forgiving. If your classmate makes a mistake, don’t badger him or her for it. Just let it go – it happens to the best of us.
- Run a spelling and grammar check before posting anything to the discussion board. It only takes a minute, and can make the difference between sounding like a fool and sounding knowledgeable.
RULE OF THUMB: If you wouldn’t do or say something in real life, don’t do it online either.
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Not every discussion board question leads to a dynamic discussion among students; some discussion boards just peter out over the course of a few days with barely any student engagement.
How can instructors prepare discussion questions that will result in meaningful dialogue among their students?
For a fantastic guide to writing good discussion questions, take a look at the chart below from Generating and Facilitating Engaging and Effective Online Discussions from the University of Oregon’s Teaching Effectiveness Program.
Active learning is an engaging form of learning that involves higher-order thinking skills such as evaluation, synthesis, and analysis. It is much more effective than the passive learning that occurs when students simply listen to a lecture or watch a powerpoint presentation. When engaged in active learning, students are forced to process and apply the information that they learned.
How can professors create opportunities for active learning in online courses?
Mark Trego, Active Learning Technician at Northwest Iowa Community College, suggests dividing students into several small groups and asking each group to discuss a specific topic with their fellow group-members on discussion boards. Each group should then present their findings to the rest of the class. Finally, all groups should critique their peers’ presentations.
For a more detailed explanation of active learning and its applications, see Mark Trego’s full video below.
In the absence of face-to-face interactions, how can professors of online courses develop relationships with their students?
Implement these 10 tips to generate a sense of personal connection with your students:
- Post a short biography of yourself at the beginning of the course so that students have a sense of who you are. Talk about your background, education, interests, and include a photo.
- Create an introductory discussion board where each student can post something about themselves – their background, interests, job history, educational goals, personal goals, or anything else they’re like you and their peers to know. Respond to students’ posts, and encourage all students to respond to their peers as well.
- Better yet – request that all students create a quick personal moodboard. There are several free online moodboard creation tools such as Mural.ly and Glogster.
- Take note of students’ interests and incorporate them into class discussions. For example, if your are teaching a course about economics, and know that one of your students is the manager of his own small business, create a discussion thread in which you ask that student to write about his marketing techniques and let the other students comment with their thoughts and input.
- Instead of posting your weekly announcements as text, post video announcements recorded with a webcam. Being able to watch a video of their professor on screen helps students feel a stronger sense of connection.
- Respond to students’ posts on weekly discussion boards as much as possible so that students know you’re listening and interested in their thoughts.
- Create assignemnts that allow students to share their personal thoughts and experiences. In essay questions or discussion board threads, ask students questions such: When have you seen the concept of XYZ played out in your own life? Where have you seen this phenomenon occur in your own community?
- If you notice a particular student who is not completing his or her assignments, don’t be afraid to reach out and send them an email asking if everything’s okay or if you can help them in any way.
- Make a list of all your students and keep track of when you made personal contact with them. Jot down the date and method of contact – email, discussion board, phone call, etc. Keeping track of all your students will ensure that no one falls through the cracks.
- Consider splitting large classes into smaller classes to allow for more individualized attention and a sense of community.
- 3 Tips to Connect with Your Online Students by Josh Murdock
- Make a Personal Connection in Your Online Classroom by Melissa Venable
In a regular classroom setting, discussions are generated spontaneously and participation is encouraged naturally by the professor’s verbal or implied feedback – such as eye contact, nodding, and facial expressions of approval or surprise.
When these factors are not present in the context of an online course, professors must devise strategies to motivate all students to participate in the discussion boards.
Here are some tips for boosting participation in your online discussions:
- Ask open-ended questions that don’t just have a yes or no answer.
- If you do ask a question with a yes-or-no answer, require half of the students to support one side of the argument, and the other half to support the other side.
- Include multimedia (such as images, Youtube videos, or infographics) into the starter question to generate more interest in the topic.
- Participate in the discussion yourself, by questioning and commenting on students’ posts.
- Model the type of writing and communication that you would like the students to use. Demonstrate by example whether you want students to post musing thoughts or only post more developed responses.
- Allow students to post anonymously, so that they will be more willing share their true opinions on the topic.
- Allow students to create their own discussion threads.
- Provide grades for the frequency and quality of each student’s participation in the discussion.
- Consider offering extra participation points for students who continue the discussions even after the specified end date.
- When you create your class exams, include questions related to the discussions.
Most importantly, make sure to provide clear guidelines for students as to what you expect them to do on the discussion boards:
- How often do you expect each student to post? One a week? Twice a week? Every day?
- Can students simply agree with what was already said, or do you expect them to generate new ideas with each post?
- Are students required to back up their thoughts and opinions with sources?
- How long should each post be? Is one line enough, or must they post a developed piece consisting of several paragraphs?
- Should the language and writing be formal or informal?
- Is there a specified end date for the discussion, or do you expect the discussion to continue indefinitely?
By providing clear guidelines about what you expect from each student, you will enable your class to generate discussions that hold to higher standards.
- Developing Successful Online Discussions from Blackboard.com
- Generating and Facilitating Engaging and Effective Online Discussions from the University of Oregon’s Teaching Effectiveness Program.