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Model Effective Online Interaction

Module by: Larry Ragan. E-mail the author

Summary: This module focuses on strategies that instructors can use to promote effective interaction in an online environment. This module is part of the Best Practices in Online Teaching Course created by Penn State University World Campus as a guide for faculty who are new to teaching in an online environment.

What to Do?

Figure 1: Photo by Simon Stratford, You Got Mail, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/6444
Figure 1 (graphics1.jpg)

Effective online instructors provide a good role model for active participation and interact frequently with their students to create a sense of learning community.

How to Do It?

  • Respond to student comments or questions within time frames set at beginning of the course
  • If circumstances require you to change the time frame for responses, notify students beforehand and provide new time frames. (Example1)
  • If you will be unavailable for some period during the semester (i.e., traveling), notify students beforehand. (Example 2)
  • Provide general feedback to the entire class on specific assignments or discussions. (Example 3)
  • Provide specific encouragement and comments to students who have completed assignments. (For more information about support, please see Provide Feedback and Support)
  • Provide meaningful feedback on graded assignments with recognition of good work as well as specific suggestions for improvement. (Example 4)
  • Provide a weekly “wrap up” before the next lesson begins.
  • Introduce a new week with an overview (including deadlines) of what is coming up. (Example 5)

Example 1: Emails Sent to Class About Changes in Response Time

Dear Class,

I have had to unexpectedly leave town for a death in the family. I will be available through e-mail for the next few days, but my e-mail access may be sporadic. I will do my best to be in touch with you as soon as possible. I am still in the process of grading your assignments, and will not have them done by the end of today, as I had hoped. I appreciate your patience and understanding at this time. I am not sure when I will be back in town, but will address any questions/concerns through e-mail.

I am attaching your project assignment to this e-mail. The project is not due until the end of week 8, but some of you have been asking for this information. Now you have it if you want to get a head start on this.

--Bryanne Cordeiro

Example 2: Travel Delays

Example 2 - Travel Delays

Hi Class,

OK, so I'm headed to Pompeii tomorrow, which means that there may be another slight delay in my access to the Internet, but I suspect all will be fine. It turns out that, overall, Italy is just as capable of ANGEL access as the US, so there shouldn't be a problem. But, I wanted to make you aware of the possible situation under which a day or two might pass between now and my next computer time.

I hope this isn't too big of deal, and I again appreciate your patience!

Ciao, Jason

Example 3: Sample Feedback Provided to a Class

The stuff a lot of you found on-line for the attitudes discussion is great! Very interesting! You should take some time to check out what everyone else posted if you get the chance. One of your fellow students even found a satisfaction survey on-line. Others found great advice from managers about how to deal with angry employees and customers. Neat stuff!

Amie Skattebo

Example 4: Feedback on Graded Assignments

ANGEL email sent to class, ESL 015, Fall 06

Hi class, Here's my feedback in your work on the summary of Lean's article.

What I was looking at:

  1. if you have explicitly and clearly summarized the points as to why numerical grading system is not appropriate. Don't just say it's bad because it's unfair: Lean explained why it is unfair and how it can be detrimental to the students.
  2. if you sum up the points as to why descriptive reports on the students might be a better way to replace the numerical grading. You need to include claims and assumptions about why this system would work better. His claim might be "descriptive way works better", but his assumption can be the reasons why that would work better. Let me see, as your reader, why Lean was supporting the descriptive way.
  3. how you citied his examples in your own words to support points 1) and 2).

Please review your summary and see if you have stated all of these three points. Again, I would welcome your further revision on your summary.

Thank you. K. Park

Example 5: Sample Message Introducing a New Week

Hi, 451'ers. I hope that you are all having a good week!

I just wanted to remind you that this week's case (based on the Hartwick Case on MLK's Letter from Birmingham Jail) is due on Sunday. It is an individual assignment, and so far only one individual has completed it.

Looking ahead to next week, your group will need to complete another movie case by 11:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 9. I suggest that you start determining which movie your group will watch/discuss so that everyone can view it and respond in time. Your movie choices include: Remember the Titans, Apollo 13, and Lord of the Flies.

Plus, keep progressing on your final group project. Be sure to get in touch with your interviewees and conduct your interviews as soon as possible!

Dr. L

Voice of Experience

To hear insights from experienced online instructors about preparing for online teaching, access any or all of the following interviews. Please make sure your audio is enabled.

Jonathan Mathews

Figure 2
Figure 2 (jonathanmathews.jpg)
Figure 3
Mathews - Suggestions for New Instructors Regarding Online Interactions (mp3)
Media File: MathewsSuggestionsNewnstructors.mp3

Alfred Turgeon

Figure 4
Figure 4 (altugeon.jpg)
Figure 5
Alfred Turgeon - Managing Student Interactions (Interviewed by Larry Ragan) (mp3)
Media File: TurgeonStudentInteractions.mp3

Why Do It?

"Teacher presence online (Anderson et al., 2001; Murphy, Smith & Stacey, 2002) is important in structuring and facilitating an effective online learning experience, and helping to establish an online learning community among the students" (Wilson & Stacey, 2004).

"Reinforcing and modeling good discussant behaviors can be helpful to encourage courtesy and interaction" (Berge, 1995).

“Instructor involvement and engagement in online learning is crucial. Online learning requires instructors to take on active roles in facilitating students’ learning. As well as peer support, instructor presence in supporting and guiding students’ learning and engagement are important for enabling active learning” (Vonderwell & Turner, 2005, p.82).

References

Berge, Z.L. (1995). Facilitating Computer Conferencing: Recommendations from the Field. Educational Technology, 35(1), 22-30

Vonderwell, S. & Turner, S. (2005). Active learning and preservice teachers’ experiences in an online course: A case study. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 13(1), 65-84

Wilson, G., Stacey, K (2004). Online interaction impacts on learning: Teaching the teachers to teach online. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20(1), 33-48

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