Overview

The module will provide you with an introduction to the classroom issues and activities that are of interest to many instructors. Don't feel that to be an effective instructor you must implement every suggestion in this module. There is no one "perfect" way to teach; each of us eventually develops an individual instructional style that is compatible with our personality and our discipline. Whatever the approach to teaching, conveying enthusiasm and actively engaging students in the learning process seem to be important components. I have simply provides a starting place; it does not claim to be the definitive source of information about effective teaching.

 Module Topics

General Student Support Strategies

Prepare a one-page technical help sheet to distribute to your students. Include things like the course URL, your email address, where to get an email account, operating hours of the computing labs, location of campus labs, support numbers, etc.

Set rules and standards for good "netiquette" within the discussion forums. Encourage communication among the participants of the class about the online learning experience.

Establish clear norms for participation and procedures for grading online work, which give credit for good participation.

Set clear expectations for the learners of the course in terms of participation, assignments, readings, and out-of-class work.

Seamless Classroom & Online Technology Integration

To keep students interested and to reach students who process information visually, you can use various multimedia techniques. Presentation tools like Powerpoint, Keynote and Prezzi can serve as a teleprompter to give new instructors a visible outline from which to work. Presentation tools can also be used to assist students with note taking. Please keep in mind that poor slides can detract from rather than enhance student learning, so make sure that lecture slides are well designed.

In general, lectures, or any learning experiences, need to be evaluated based on what they are intended to achieve. Sitting in a classroom, and having an instructor lecture (with limited discussion) is not sufficiently valuable to justify confining it to a physical medium. If the intent is mainly content presentation, I would recommend podcasting, video casting, interactive modules, Youtube/Ted videos or advanced readings.

Another technique that is easy to use and assists with student empowerment is harvesting the “living web” of podcasts, RSS feeds and videos for learning materials. These materials can be used to support lectures, and assist students in preparing for class discussions and team exercises.

Students' electronic devices can also be put to educational use by providing them with a list of mobile web materials that support the content being studied.

Rewarding Student Participation

In responding to student questions there are a number of guidelines which can positively reinforce good student responses and facilitate further discussion.

  1. Praise the student in a strong positive way for a correct or positive response. Use such terms as "excellent answer," "absolutely correct," and "bull's eye." These terms are quite different from the common mild phrases instructors often use such as "O.K.," "hm-­hm," and "all right." Especially when the response is long, the instructor should try to find at least some part that deserves praise and then comment on it.
  2. Make comments pertinent to the specific student response. For example, suppose that a student has offered an excellent response to the question, "What function did the invasion of the Falklands serve for Argentina?" The instructor might say, "That was excellent, Pat. You included national political reasons as well as mentioning the Argentine drive to become the South American leader." This response gives an excellent rating to the student in an explicit and strong form. It also demonstrates that the instructor has listened carefully to the student's ideas.
  3. Build on the student's response. If the instructor continues to discuss a point after a student response, he or she should try to incorporate the key elements of the response into the discussion. By using the student's response, the instructor shows that he or she values the points made. By referring to the student explicitly by name (e.g., "As Pat pointed out, the Falklands' national political status... ") the instructor gives credit where credit is due.
  4. Avoid the "Yes, but... "reaction. Instructors use "Yes, but..." or its equivalent when a response is wrong or at least partly wrong. The overall impact of these phrases is negative and deceptive even though the instructor's intent is probably positive. The "Yes, but..." fielding move says that the response is correct or appropriate with one breath and then takes away the praise with the next. Some straight-forward alternatives can be recommended:
  • Wait to a count of five with the expectation that another student will volunteer a correct or better response.
  • Ask, "How did you arrive at that response? (Be careful though, not to ask this question only when you receive inadequate responses, ask it also at times when you receive a perfectly good response).
  • Say, "You're right regarding X and that's great; wrong regarding Y. Now we need to correct Y so we can get everything correct."
  • Say, "Thanks. Is there someone who wants to respond to the question or comment on the response we've already heard?"

These four alternatives are obviously not adequate to fit all cases. Indeed, it is generally difficult to field wrong or partially wrong responses because students are sensitive to instructor criticism. However, with these alternatives as examples, you will probably be able to generate others as needed.