Thursday, January 15, 2009

Instructional Strategies: What Do Online Students Prefer?

I read this study on the Journal of Online Teaching and Learning recently and it brought back memories of my two online classes last summer, and of the courses that friends of mine had to take online at other colleges and universities.

Based on this input, I know what my preferences are for online learning:

1. The class needs to be asynchronous. If I have to be in Wimba (or other teleconferencing tool) every Monday from 8 to 10pm, then I would prefer to be in class. Even though our tools are better, regular synchronous classes are not for me. Having an asynchronous class allows me to look at discussion boards during my lunch hour, or while waiting for the train (on my N800 internet tablet). You just can't emulate the classroom experience in Wimba and I find that I would prefer to be in a physical location if I have to do this anyway.

2. Podcasts all the way! Instructors will often write an introduction to a topic before they let you do the readings and respond to the discussion board's question of the week. I think podcasts are a great way of providing a lecture that is portable and easy to access on the go, and easy to listen to again and again. It also allows the instructor to enrich the lecture with personal ideas and anecdotes that may not be as good in written form. It may also allow the instructor to interview people in industry and have the students listen to this person's wise (or not so wise) words!

3. Discussions! I love discussions. Sometimes my eyes glaze over at the sheer volume of text (blackboard isn't properly threaded which makes it difficult), but I enjoy reading other people's thoughts, ideas, a history on a given subject. Collaborative learning is a good method for me.

4. Peer Review. I admit it, I don't always read everyone else's contributions. In a class for 20-30 students, I am just not able to read each submission! I do save them though for future reading. Now peer review is a great tool because it forces people to look at other people's work and provide constructive critique, or, as I have done in some cases, borrow some of my classmate's great ideas (with attribution of course) to enrich my projects.
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