Thursday, November 8, 2012

Getting the most from distance education

Photo of Chad Bingham
Chad Bingham
Chad Bingham, a lecturer in the Communication Disorders and Deaf Education department, was recently named a Teaching Fellow by Distance Education at Utah State University. He will share some of his expertise in a free webinar on November 13 (details at the bottom of this post).

Here's his advice to students and faculty who want to get and give the most in an online environment:

Q: What can students do to gain the most from their online education?

I think the best way for students to get the most from their online education is to connect in some meaningful way with their professors. This is extremely difficult to do in the online medium, but as an instructor, I appreciate knowing who my students are, what challenges they are facing, and how I can best support their learning in my courses. It also makes it much easier to write a more personalized letter of recommendation for these students if I have come to know them as more than just a number or name.

Q: Is there a guiding principle for faculty members who want to give their online students a quality experience?

Make sure your course is set up in a way that leaves the student with clear expectations and as little confusion as possible. This includes making sure that your course is updated often. The difficulty in teaching an online course is the individual nature on the students' end. One mistake made by a professor in a traditional course may be identified by one student, and a solution can be provided to the group at one time. In the online environment, you may get 20+ emails from students with the same question. Make sure your course is organized so that questions regarding assignments and expectations can be minimized.

Another thing that instructors of online courses can do is utilize the technology for collaboration that is built into Canvas. Taking the time to provide real-time chats with the students makes you more of a real person instead of a talking head. Students appreciate "meeting" their instructors and engaging in a dialogue rather than trying to have all of their questions answered through email correspondence.

Want more information? Bingham offers a free webinar entitled "More than a Number: Effectively Teaching Large Online Courses" on Tuesday, November 13, at 3 p.m. To attend, sign in at the teaching fellows connect page at the webinar's starting time. You can enter as a guest if you don't have a login.

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