How To Get Students Engaged In Online Learning

What might be the most exciting thing a professor could offer online education? Would it be a quiz?

Do you often reach out to a group of students for help and encouragement? But, what if you could send that group of students the assignment that was needing your input? You may have to do that, as many schools are taking to online course delivery.

According to MOOC blogger, Chad Koshland, who researches MOOCs for NYU’s Coursera, the typical cost of a university course in the United States can cost upwards of $2,000. He has also found that 46% of students with a subscription to a MOOC app end up taking the class multiple times.

In fact, a study by the Center for Education Policy at George Mason University found that students who enrolled in a MOOC — from any provider — are more likely to receive college credit in the fall and spring. They have paid $9.4 million in up-front fees since 2013, but this statistic only accounts for those who went on to take the course again.

This is not to say that the changes in higher education (particularly online education) are a bad thing. It is still early days, but schools are starting to experiment with online delivery. Several schools in my realm have already begun using a new educational technology called a “World Wide Wedge.” It’s basically an online portal that allows you to maintain a virtual space, where you can monitor your students and see who has participated in the class. It’s incredibly useful, and these kinds of advances are really what are shaping the future of higher education.

How to make the most of your new space

What is most useful, though, is being able to pinpoint exactly which students have the time and energy to participate in your course.

When I was teaching, I could see who had the homework, because we used a weekly distributed homework. In fact, there was a huge disadvantage of doing that: when it was my responsibility to hit the designated targets, I’d focus on doing the best homework I could. When my student found out the next class day was on a weekday, they’d email me asking me to take their homework off their due date. As time went on, I realized that I wasn’t able to achieve my goal.

This problem continues to exist, with too many students getting upset when deadlines arrive, only to find that their work is simply not done. What we have to do, as educators, is to make sure that students recognize that there are still ways to complete assignments. And that’s why I rely on the Wedge; I see what skills and concepts each student has, and work with them until they have mastered what they need to. Most students are here to study and learn, so let’s not kill the motivation with a one-size-fits-all practice!

Curriculum needs to be better aligned with technology.

This is one of the hardest transitions for educators. Most educators spend years developing a course plan — a lifetime, really. This year, I’m learning that this approach to creating a course requires new resources. Technology makes it hard to find the resources.

I’m also seeing a shift to a more forward-thinking education system. Many educators simply don’t feel they are equipped to be in the long-term position of education. For example, our district’s IT staff is usually the first to pick up new technology, but it is the first to say, “Wait, maybe we shouldn’t use it.”

I can’t tell you the frustration of knowing your technology is capable of doing something (we’ve updated a project for this year using Microsoft Excel, and the addition wizard didn’t even know what to do because it’s never worked with the spreadsheet tool before), but it won’t fix this problem.

How to keep tech updated

One solution is to update a project as soon as it’s done, or allow your students to work on something remotely in order to ensure the most accurate feedback.

I’m also seeing where schools need better curriculum. My students have enough Excel to fill a mini warehouse on their own. But a course plan needn’t just be word documents and charts. It can be visual representations of how we are going to structure our lessons and the structure of learning for each moment.

These are just some examples of how online courses could benefit institutions in America. Find out more about my plans for working in the upcoming days and subscribe to my blog to see what comes next.

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