3 Tech Tools to Increase Participation in Virtual Discussions

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.

  1. 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.

5 Mistakes to Look Out For As An Online Student

The following is a guest post by Ellie Coverdale, a tutor and content creator. If you would like to submit a guest post, please contact us

Technology is at the stage today where all sorts of different areas of life are being handled over the internet. From grocery shopping to visiting the doctor, the power of the internet is immense. One such area is education. Online education courses have actually been around for many years now, but in recent years there’s been a marked increase in the quality and quantity of what’s being achieved. Some online educational courses are now easily rivaling and even bettering classroom learning and other traditional methods of education. As a method that is still somewhat unorthodox, and certainly nowhere near as explored as the traditional routes, there are things that you need to be careful about with online studies. So, without further ado, let’s look at some of the mistakes you should be avoiding as an online student.

1. Failing to Properly Manage your Time

There’s something so convenient and easy about the idea of online education and, subsequently, it can feel like a method you can adopt without upsetting the rhythms of your life elsewhere. However, this is most certainly the wrong attitude to have. Online education is as important, in terms of the hours you put in, as in the classroom education. And whilst you might be cutting out the commute, there’ s no reason why you shouldn’t be scheduling in a detailed way when you’re at your computer studying and when you don’t have to be. The convenient nature to it makes it so easy to procrastinate. Suddenly you find yourself at 3am watching the lecture you were supposed to watch that afternoon, all because you didn’t manage your time formally and efficiently.

2. Not Firming Up Technical Capacities

Before leaping into your new online course or degree, there are a few things you need to look out for from a technical standpoint. One of the most important of these is making sure you have all of the technical specifications that you need for your device to be able to cope with the programs and processes that you will be running as part of your degree. Having a slow running computer, or, even worse, slow internet could really cripple your ability to complete live tasks. Often online education courses will make you stream live lectures or need to have many different pages and sites open at one time. These sorts of technical pressures can turn online education into a nightmare if you can’t meet them. So get prepared.

3. Always Being Isolated

It’s easy to just be on your own all the time when in online education. It’s one of those mixed blessings. On the one hand, it’s nice to be alone and, for some, it can help you focus better on the material at hand. On the other hand, communal learning has its real benefits and having someone who you can ask questions to or discuss topics with really enhances education. You shouldn’t aim for total isolation in your online course, try and find ways to work around others sometimes. Or, failing that, you should try and Skype or video chat with another student as you do the course together.

4. Allowing Temptation To Creep In

Online learning requires discipline, simple as that. A computer can be used for all sorts of things, a great percentage of which are entertainment oriented. When your computer is also your school, there’s definitely a sense in which it is extremely easy to get distracted on Facebook or YouTube, especially since there’s no-one to stop you. Consider using a site blocker if you have a problem.

5. Not Participating

It’s easy to be in online education and to just sit back and be a passive observer of events. Just because you’re not actually being distracted or procrastinating, doesn’t mean that you don’t need to do more than simply be present. Actively engage, ask questions and try your hardest.

Conclusion

Online education presents a wonderful opportunity to people from all sorts of different parts of the world and from all walks of life to come together, through the power of the internet, and get a really good education from their own homes. Just look out for these pitfalls and you should be fine!

Author’s Bio: Ellie Coverdale works as a tutor and blogger. She loves sharing her insights and tips on authentic, meaningful psychological routes towards learning with her readers. She also contributes to https://studydemic.com/

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.

An Online Course is not a Rubber Band

rubber bandMeet Christie. She is a motivated junior majoring in Psychology. Because of her hectic schedule (balancing two internships, a research position, vice-president of student government, and training for a marathon), she does not have time to take her entire course load in person.

Enter online courses! Christie’s solution to her packed, 24-hour days. Online courses, she thinks, will enable her to learn, explore a new field of study, and comprehend the course objectives, without having time to do any of that.

Yeah. That is not going to happen.

While a major advantage of an online course is its flexibility, the course is not a rubber band. It can be given in a number of different ways (synchronously, asynchronously. etc.) and often completed at any time of day (3 AM anyone?). However, despite some students’ perceptions, it cannot be completely contorted to bear no resemblance to a traditional course.

Christie needs to play to her strengths if she wants to excel in the online environment.

  1. Prioritize – It is highly unlikely that Christie would ever miss a training meet because she knows that she needs to stay physically fit in order to run the race. So too, students need to view online courses as a priority in their weekly work-load.
  1. Schedule – Everything from penguin feeding at the zoo to FedEx deliveries throughout the country are successfully completed because they stick to a schedule. Since asynchronous online courses lack this critical quality, Christie must be sure to schedule it into her daily and weekly routine.
  1. Coach – Christie knows that she excels in an atmosphere where structure and guidance allow her to thrive. Students should not feel like an online course is simply a “Do It Yourself Course.” Rather, they should view their instructors as support and strive to stay connected with their teachers through emails, questions, discussion boards, and other course-related interactions.
  1. Teammates – In what industry are teammates unimportant? Christie needs to seize the opportunity to be a team player in her online classroom. By contributing her ideas, work, and support to her classmates, she will in return receive the assistance and encouragement that she needs to pass the course with flying colors.
  1. Goal-driven – Never does Christie wait until an ultimate objective is met in order to feel a sense of accomplishment. Rather, she takes pride in small victories throughout the journey. Online students should be proud of their achievements throughout the course, not only when they receive their final grades.
  1. Enjoy – Christie looks forward to her extra-curricular activities. She values her internships, delights in her hobbies, and had the opportunity to choose the school which she attends. If she can recognize the value and importance of her online course then it will shift from a burden to boon and become that much easier to do.

With these suggestions in hand, Christie should be well-armed to shine in class. What advice would you give to Christie?

Why are Assessments Important in an Online Course?

Assessments are an important aspect of any course. They allow students to interact with information that they learn, enable instructors to check students’ progress, and simply keep the class on track. In online environments, assessments play a crucial role due to the nature of the setup and the need to promote active learning.

In this video, Dr. Melissa Kaulbach of Faculty eCommons and Dr. Jeri Nowakowski examine how to best utilize assessments in an online course. They provide tips in moving beyond quizzes and essays and demonstrate how an assessment can cause a student to engage in learning and fully comprehend the subject at hand. In addition, they outline how creative, thought-out assessments can benefit the instructor and assist in creating a collaborative learning community.

To learn more about how effective assessments can change an online course, check out Dr. Melissa Kaulbach’s video below:

Source: Ed Tech Du Jour

Video Animation in an Online Course

tv photoThis title might seem like an anomaly. Animation brings to mind silly cartoons and juvenile programming. Animation, however, can be an appealing and advantageous supplement in an online classroom.

Here are five great benefits of using animated videos:

  1. Create a “trailer” for your course – Spark interest. Show by example that the course will be dynamic and exciting, not a simple correspondence course.
  2. Demonstrate professionalism – Fireworks and special effects are not enough to grab a student’s interest. While students value technology, they appreciate technology that makes sense. A video animation tool assists you in merging your logic and creativity to produce a clean and exciting delivery of your ideas.
  3. As an assignment – An instructor needs to evaluate a student’s progress. Generally, evaluations are conducted in the forms of writing responses. The assignment to create a short, animated film can be a different and compelling way to encourage student involvement and assess student progress.
  4. As collaboration – Group work is always important. Videos can be produced in groups and easily shared through many social media. This can generate stimulating discussion about the subject matter.
  5. Provide visual instruction – Educators know that it is important to teach to all types of learners; audial learners, visual learners, and kinesthetic learners. Animated videos can serve as visual and audial instruction and even create a broader learning experience.

Video Animation Tools

Though it may look difficult, it is easy for instructors to produce professional-looking videos. Check out these five video animation tools which empowers design novices to create incredible productions.

  1. VideoScribe – This tool specializes in whiteboard animation, a very popular promotional animation style. Images are drawn on screen imitating what an instructor might do on a whiteboard in front of the classroom. VideoScribe can be accessed on a computer, iPhone, iPad, Android, and Kindle.
  2. Go Animate – This tool aims to give their customers a professional style videos which are easy and fun to create. Users can choose themes, backgrounds, music, and even animated characters to enhance the presentation.
  3. Wideo – With the ability to choose pre-existing templates or start from scratch, Wideo users can take advantage of the intuitive interface to easily create modern and sleek animation.
  4. PowToon – This animation tool strives to enable users to design exciting and professional videos. Recognizing the importance of education, PowToon also specializes in enabling and training teachers to use it in their classrooms.
  5. Moovly – Complete with state-of-the art animation features, Moovly can students and teachers with special deals and educational licenses in order to harness its functions in the classroom.

How do you use video animation in your online classroom?

7 Tips for Linking Videos to an Online Course

video cameraEverybody loves videos. Whether feature films or short, creative clips, they are viewed as a way to spark interest and take a break from the usual classroom rhythm.

The nature of an online classroom is ideal for video use. Instructors can easily link videos to the course and enable their students to learn beyond a limited text. However, if not implemented correctly, videos can be a roadblock which bring frustration prevent learning.

Here are seven tips to enhance your use of videos in your online classroom.

  1. Serve a purpose – Videos can be exciting and flashy, but make sure that they truly add something to the course. Inform the students why the video is important and what they can expect to gain from watching it.
  2. Accessible – A fantastic video will not be of any benefit if the students cannot view it. If you used the video in a previous semester, check that the link still works. Also, be sure that it can be played on different types of computers and operating systems.
  3. Appropriate length – A video needs to be just the right length to keep a student’s attention and to communicate the purpose of the clip.
  4. Engaging – A video is not necessarily engaging. Although it can be a break from the norm and be exciting because of special features, be sure that it is not boring. Try to find a clip which brings students in and motivates them to watch it until the end.
  5. Interactive – Just like an instructor might provide instructions for a guided reading, arrange a dynamic element to the assignment. Strategies could include things like a quiz at the conclusion of the clip, a response paper, or even something creative to keep students on track (think “Where’s Waldo?).
  6. Take advantage of the internet – The internet offers many educational video resources. Some websites like AcademicEarth, BigThink, and TED-Ed (learn more about TED-Ed here) offer great options. Also, many YouTube channels specifically focus on academic fields.
  7. Know about copyright – Be aware of each linked video’s copyright status. This information can often be found in the “Terms of Use”

How do you use videos in your online classroom?

Sources:

Lights, Camera, Learn!: Five tips for using video in eLearning by Veronica Phillips on eLearnMagazine.org

8 tips for creating video in online learning by Meris Stansbury on eCampusNews.com

Making the Leap: 7 Tips for New Online Learners

28897238_s - Second Copy CroppedWill this semester be your first time taking an online course? While a syllabus should outline the technicalities and course navigation, the mental leap from traditional instruction to a virtual classroom can be daunting. Here are 7 suggestions to make the transition easier.

  1. Recognize that e-learning is different type of learning experience. Don’t compare it to a traditional course. Although it may seem strange, give the virtual learning methods a chance and explore a new pedagogical arena.
  1. Learn how you like. Enrich your learning experience by finding supplementary resources which you enjoy using. They could be familiar resources, like powerpoints and informative videos, or perhaps new tools like prezi or TED Talks.
  1. Share what you find with your classmates. If you liked it, chances are that they will too. You can create a larger and more united environment for your classmate community.
  1. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn. Don’t submit reading responses only in order to make the grade. Choose to make the most of the experience and continually appreciate learning new things.
  1. Team up with another first time e-learner. Whether or not you are taking the same course, it is a good idea to have a friend who can jointly relate to your position.
  1. Find a mentor who had a positive online learning experience. Look around – it is likely that a neighbor or a fellow student made this leap a little while ago. Ask for practical advice and do not scoff at comforting reassurance.
  1. Have fun! – Learning is great.

What helped you make the transition from a traditional student to an e-learner?

10 Tips for Boosting Participation in Online Discussion Boards

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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:

  1. Ask open-ended questions that don’t just have a yes or no answer.
  2. 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.
  3. Include multimedia (such as images, Youtube videos, or infographics) into the starter question to generate more interest in the topic.
  4. Participate in the discussion yourself, by questioning and commenting on students’ posts.
  5. 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.
  6. Allow students to post anonymously, so that they will be more willing share their true opinions on the topic.
  7. Allow students to create their own discussion threads.
  8. Provide grades for the frequency and quality of each student’s participation in the discussion.
  9. Consider offering extra participation points for students who continue the discussions even after the specified end date.
  10. 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.

Sources: