One significant but rarely discussed issue with online teaching is that both teachers and students could have a “reading overload.” Appropriate use of online teaching tools and media components help to address this problem. In a recent Adams Center session for engaging students, Dr. Vic McCracken shared a few of his methods which we found fascinating.
When teaching his CORE210 course online, Dr. McCracken had 25 students who were asked to participate in online discussions. It is extremely time-consuming to respond to 25 students’ posts individually. More importantly, student views may overlap at times, and it does not add value to learning experiences to repeat similar responses. So instead of responding to each student, Dr. McCracken recorded a video response every day to share with students. This is a three-week course, which he thinks makes it necessary to post a response daily. If it is a full semester-long course, weekly video response may be sufficient.
To make sure students watch his video responses, he asked students to post at least one response to his response. Students were held accountable to interact as he graded these responses. Such video feedback, as well as student responses to feedback, add immediacy and personal presence to his course, while also reducing the time demand for him and students.
Time thus saved can be used elsewhere in the teaching process, such as individualized feedback on papers. For these papers, Dr. McCracken marked on them first, using notes and color-coded highlights, and then he used Camtasia to record screencast sessions to give students detailed explanation.
Here are some additional suggestions for more efficient use of time in providing feedback to students in an online setting:
- Use assignments to collect student work. I strongly advise against using email to collect student work as this creates much busywork for both you and students. Use the assignment tool to collect almost any type of digital artifacts, as the assignment tool makes it so much easier for you and students to send work back and forth, mark on them, and type or record comments without having to create folders in your email or on your computers and spend time looking for them later.
- Use a forum: Instead of using university email or inbox of Canvas to interact with students one by one on logistical issues, create an online forum titled “questions and answers”, as students may ask the same questions.
- Use virtual “office hours”: If you sense that many members of the class are struggling with the same issues, consider hosting a virtual office hours session using Canvas Conference or Chat, which allows you to meet synchronously with students. Make sure you offer alternative time slots (one in the morning, one in the evening, for instance) for students who may have schedule conflicts.
Do you have any other thoughts on the ways to improve the efficiency of student interaction in online settings? Please share with us!