Monday, February 10, 2020

How can online teaching simulate the interactivity of a classroom?

This is probably my number one question about online education:  How does the instructor engage learners to simulate the interpersonal dynamics and learning of a physical classroom?  And especially for skills-based classes (like the negotiation classes I used to teach), how can we replicate the one-on-one interaction in a virtual learning environment? 

There is a Chinese proverb that epitomizes my personal approach to teaching and learning: 
I hear, I forget.
I see, I remember.
I do, I understand.

In my classroom, I generally reversed the order of the proverb’s process.  I had students read about the new concepts first.  Then I lectured about the key components I wanted them to remember.  Then the students engaged in group discussion or exercises to have the concepts become real or to put them into practice.  This approach generally corresponds to current thinking about adult learning:  adults learn by doing.

I’ll be coming back to some of these techniques in more detail in future blogs, but for now, here are some of the main techniques my research into the question has turned up.

Students interact with each other a-synchronously
·      Threaded discussion (have students comment on each other’s posts).
·      Peer review of other students’ written materials.
·      Invite students to contribute course content (e.g., via online group study sessions, doing their own research and presenting results to full class)
·      Create an exercise or game that students perform with each other, taking turns virtually.
·      Teamwork assignments (encourage/require students to solve problems together, often via group chats online).
·      Chatroom (video and/or text only) with instructor or fellow students.
·      Group discussions in online forums.
·      Study-unit blogs.

Students practice skills directly with each other
·      Role-playing simulations (combining synchronous and a-synchronous communication using email, chat rooms).
·      Using Zoom, Skype or similar web-based personal communication technologies, students set up an appointment to conduct exercises (e.g., a negotiation simulation) with each other.
·      Chatroom with instructor or fellow students.

I’d love to hear some of your experiences with making the online learning experience more interactive, especially techniques for recreating the feel of face-to-face (F2F).  Email me.


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