Module Four: Strategies to Promote Student Engagement in the New Classroom

The classroom is a traditional space of learning as well as a space-in-evolution that is constantly changing.  Due to developments in information technology and the ubiquity of the online space in our daily lives, students in today’s classrooms invariably learn to balance the face-to-face encounter with the virtual classroom.

How to Start Your Course
Start off your course site with an introductory video, an orientation video lecture, as well as a virtual tour of the course that functions as a pathfinder in the labyrinthine world of online learning. This gives students the necessary contact with their instructors. 

This allows the teacher to speak extemporaneously or off a script, and helps to introduce the teacher’s passion and persona to her classroom.  It also helps to stage the course, its contents, and some scholarship on a dynamic stage along with the written text.  Here is an example of an online course introductory video: Video | Text Version
Teacher-Student Communication
Teacher-Student CommunicationWhile the online medium has the potential to be empowering, liberating, and egalitarian, bringing all forms of diversity on one stage where pure learning happens, it also verges on the danger of anonymity.  Not only can students remain off the radar and hide, they can simply disappear making it hard to support students one does not meet. You would be wise to check regularly with short email queries, generic questions posed to everyone, etc

On the discussion board when you or other assigned groups or students are moderating a discussion, respond to specific comments with names so that the students who initially posted feels present and listened to.

The teacher should be transparent about email etiquette, expectations and responsibilities. For example, chart out a list of email do's and don'ts so that students are aware of teacher expectations. In turn, give clear information on how you check your course site so that the student will have a sense of when responses might be forthcoming to posted queries. Generally, a 24-48 hour return time is advisable.

Intervene judiciously in student-led discussions on the discussion board – be present enough to let them know that the teacher is keen on listening but not so present that the teacher dominates and leads all discussions. Praise often, and follow it with a question especially for students who participate weakly through terse ditto postings.

Offer multi-media office hours where students can chat with teacher synchronously or attend a class session through Wimba or other systems that allow for face-to-face video chat with multiple students.

Interacting with Material
Interacting with MaterialSet up various ways that allow for productive student exchanges on the course site. For example, set up a forum on discussion board that is called "Questions for professor." It allows students to ask their academic and administrative questions and the answer will be heard by all students and saves the teacher from repeating herself. Generally such a forum sees the maximum traffic in terms of clicks and posts. In addition, set up a forum under the name, "Student Café" or "Students Helping Students" where they can post queries, thoughts, and ideas for one another. This can allow students the sort of room they have in a face- to- face classroom before the teacher walks into the room or after she leaves. Post location/time specific video or interactive logs that allow students access to the course content in multiple ways and give insight into faculty research.
Relating with Other Students

Relating with Other StudentsAffirm and commend students for engaging in difficult conversations where the solution is not easily found. Praise the group of students for being in the difficult zone because often it is by occupying these challenging spaces that true learning takes place. Strategize in what ways the students on the academic fringe are included without being further tokenized, misrepresented, or ridiculed.

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