Hello, colleagues and peers,
I am here in a second post this week to discuss how to support meaningful student to student and student to instructor interactions in the online environment.
As mentioned in my previous post, I decided to integrate a Google+ Community into my Prototype plan. After reading through the readings for this week’s blog prompt, I realized the importance of developing that sense of community for learners in the online environment.
Again, through my reflections and readings, I have come back to my initial motivation for selecting a social feel for my prototype project. Edmodo is designed to mimic Facebook and, I believe, “de-schooling” the online learning environment will be conducive to building an online community among learners.
However, going through this week’s readings, I wondered if a social environment would be enough. The Schwier article resonated with me. Schwier states:
“For a community to emerge, a learning environment must allow learners to engage each other intentionally and collectively in the transaction or transformation of knowledge. It isn’t enough that material is presented to people and they interact with the instruction. It isn’t enough that the learners interact with instructors to refine their understanding of the material.”
I decided, after these readings, that I wanted to add a community space where students could interact and support each other, particularly in the area of technology. I believe that a safe space to ask questions and share resources will help to build community as it will be a supportive place for those who technology may traditionally isolate. In addition, Google+ offers connection outside of the Edmodo or “classroom” space.
Furthermore, the Schwier article cemented my decision making around having a face-to-face class at the beginning and the end of the module. I believe that the face-to-face meet and greet among the students can begin to create the integration of the group. I know that from my experience in Alec’s classes that the chance to introduce ourselves to each other in the face-to-face environment helped as we worked through the online class.
I did think about creating a hashtag for students to follow along within Twitter. I think Twitter is an excellent tool for connecting people with a learning community. However, I chose not to add it to my class for fear of adding too much tech and potentially overwhelming the students. Considering it is an oral communication class for adults that are looking to build their essential skills, I think that challenging the students to become familiar with Google+ and Edmodo is enough, to begin with.
I would like to add that the readings triggered me to remember the importance of the instructor in maintaining the position of a co-learner. Schwier argues that trust is imperative in creating a meaningful online learning community. Research has also shown that trust is best developed in an environment where there is a flat hierarchy where students can feel that they can make meaningful contributions and that their thoughts and experiences are as valid and useful as those of the instructor.
Furthermore, the instructor needs to be present and supportive of student interactions. Yuan and Kim discuss the importance of student/instructor interactions in their article and state that students are most likely to drop out if their feel isolated in their online learning. In terms of my prototype, this research supports my decision to have asynchronous meetings every other week. I decided that asynchronous meetings every other week provide an appropriate balance between support and independence in online learning. It allows for some flexibility but also supports at appropriate times within the learning module.
In addition to the Google+ Community for tech support, the Edmodo community is a great template for student interaction. As space is set up like Facebook, students can leave “notes” (like a status update) or comment on each other’s posts just as they would on social media. I believe that this would be great for providing feedback. In the oral communication module, I envision creating opportunities for students to take videos of themselves speaking on prompts and sharing them in the Edmodo space just the way they would on Facebook. I believe the social/familiar feel would reduce anxiety around the oral communication and ease the learning curve. Furthermore, that ease and openness help to build the community that the student need to facilitate their learning.
What are your experiences in community building within the classroom?
What has worked? What has not?
Do you believe in student-centered learning?
How do you create meaningful interactions in an online environment?
Thanks for following!