Course Design

Course design is the foundation for all education. It is important to weave content with motivation, as well as find ways to engage students and encourage critical thinking.

Encouraging Critical Thinking

Posted on December 4, 2014 by Sarah Bleakney

As Unlocking the Mystery of Critical Thinking details, “most faculty don’t know what critical thinking is or how to teach it.” While we assume that critical thinking is an inevitable product of teaching any complex and demanding topic, that is not necessarily so. As the author argues, instructors must “explicitly and intentionally design their courses” to develop students’ critical thinking skills.

As the author explains, research affirms that for a course to promote critical thinking skills, it must incorporate interpretation or analysis, as well as evaluation or judgment, of content that students have had time and opportunity to master. The author provides suggestions for how to ensure that students meet the “eight standards for critical thinking,” which include clarity, precision, and logic.

One way to explicitly and intentionally design a course to promote critical thinking is to provide students with the opportunity to tackle open-ended questions and problems via a variety of assignments and activities, such as simulations, debates, and roleplaying. In addition, students’ development of critical thinking is also promoted when they receive feedback, such as through peer review. Finally, the author suggests that instructors strive to model critical thinking skills for students.

How to Make Groups Projects Work for Online Classes

Posted on November 19, 2014 by Sarah Bleakney

Group projects can present a variety of challenges for both instructors and students. However, they can also offer a myriad of benefits, particularly for online courses, that make them well worth including. A three-part series—1) why group work is necessary, 2) strategies for effective group work, and 3) student perspectives on group work—will get you thinking about the whys and hows of incorporating group projects.

Why We Need Group Work in Online Learning details the various benefits of group projects for online projects. The author makes a strong case that group projects provide an active learning experience that allows students to develop the skills in collaboration necessary to excel in their careers. Strategies for Effective Group Work in the Online Class provides a variety of strategies to support effective online group projects. These include setting groups early in the semester, limiting group size, and encouraging teams to use online collaborative tools (such as the Collaborations tool in Canvas). Good, Bad and Ugly: Student Comments on Group Work in e-Learning outlines successful evaluation and outcomes for online group projects. The author details what students liked best and least about group projects, which could prove useful in heading off challenges that can arise with group projects.

Beyond Papers and Exams, or How to Creatively Approach Assignments

Posted on November 13, 2014 by Sarah Bleakney

As the author of Could We Be Doing Better with Our Assignments? argues, assignments are “vehicles through which students learn course content.” Are your course assignments—the papers, exams, quizzes, and homework you have students complete to demonstrate mastery of course concepts—the best method to assess learning?

If you’re ready to take a more creative approach to assignments, you might find the over 50 reader-submitted suggestions found in the Comments section of this article inspiring. Suggestions include a mobile scavenger hunt, group project mock court, and a visual discussion board of pictures students take that illustrate course concepts. Click on the above link to get inspired!

Improving Student Participation in Online Discussions

Updated on April 10, 2014 (originally posted on January 28, 2014) by Sarah Bleakney

Online discussions are an important component of any course, whether it is online, on-ground, or somewhere in between. They provide a venue for student-student and student-instructor interactions, potentially enriching course communications and increasing course engagement. However, many instructors can find effectively incorporating discussions a challenge.

A recent article, Structure and Expectations Can Improve Student Participation in Online Discussions, suggests ways you can improve your students’ participation in discussions. You might also consider the types of discussion prompts used. Discussion Board Assignments: Alternatives to the Question-and-Answer Format details approaches you might use for discussions, such as debates and role-playing, while “Post once, reply twice”: uninspiring online discussion boards and what to do about them has suggestions for how instructors might apply problem-based learning principles to them. In addition, you might also consider assigning student to be moderators, as detailed in Encouraging Online Learner Participation.

Perhaps you have tried online discussions and get plenty of participation, but face issues such as conflict and tangential or unsubstantial contributions? Tips for Overcoming Online Discussion Board Challenges provides a variety of solutions worth considering for scenarios you may have or might face. Another great resource—especially for the visually-oriented—is an infographic, Why aren’t your students participating on the Discussion Board? Its flowchart format guides instructors through troubleshooting their approach to online discussions.

Faculty Focus – Special Report on the 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching

Posted on October 30, 2012 by Tawnya Means

Teaching online for the first time is a little like trying to drive a car in a foreign country. You know how to drive, just like you know how to teach, but it sure is hard to get the hang of driving on the left side of the road...you’re not quite sure how far a kilometer is...and darn it if those road signs aren’t all in Japanese.

If you’d like to better understand the “rules of the road” for online teaching and learning, 10 Principles of Effective Online Teaching: Best Practices in Distance Education is the perfect guidebook.

Download the Faculty Focus report.

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100 BRY
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Phone: 352.392.2397
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