The Flourishing Academic

A blog for teacher-scholars published by the Duquesne University Center for Teaching Excellence


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Involving Students in Online Collaborative Learning

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by Emtinan Alqurashi, a doctoral candidate in Instructional Technology and Leadership at Duquesne University. Her research interests include online teaching and learning, student learning experience, and instructional technology.

Working collaboratively in a group is an important skill to learn. Nowadays, many college students participate in online collaborative learning, especially if they are taking online courses. This type of learning teaches them how to become responsible for their learning as well as their peers’ learning. While collaborative learning is appealing, there are some issues that need to be addressed. Some common issues that appear in empirical studies (see references below) regarding collaborative learning in online learning environments are as follows:

  1. Students don’t know how to work collaboratively online.
  2. Students don’t have the understanding of how to construct knowledge together within an online environment.
  3. Grading and assessing individuals in an online collaborative work.collaborative-wok

These problems of online collaborative learning are interrelated. For example, when students don’t know how to work collaboratively online, they won’t be able to construct knowledge together, and this in turn may cause problems for the assessment of individuals within the groups. These problems occur because students don’t seem to have the knowledge and the skills needed to work in an online group. This post discusses the three common problems with online collaborative work with ways to overcome them.

Simply putting students together in groups and asking them to work together online doesn’t necessarily result in having collaborative work. For example, I had an online class where the instructor asked students to work collaboratively on a topic related to ethics in education. We divided the work so everyone had a piece to work on; however, we ended up working more cooperatively than collaboratively (click here to read more about the difference). It seemed easier to discuss ideas, suggest change in content, edit peers’ work in face-to-face than in an online environment. Students avoided editing or commenting on their peers’ posts and writings to avoid hard feelings.The absence of face-to-face communication and interaction, facial expression and body language are only some of the limitations of collaborative work in online learning settings. However, if students master those skills and have the required knowledge, group work can allow students to play an active role in the learning process.

One way for instructors to encourage and support collaborative is to provide a rubric to help student understand what is required from them. This can allow students to provide constructive feedback to their peers without worrying about criticizing their work because simply they are following the rubric. Another way is to ask each group to write their own goals of their projects, each member of the group be responsible for one goal to work on, but they also provide feedback to at least one or two other group members about their work to meet their goals.

The foundation of group work (collaborative and cooperative) is to learn to construct knowledge, and students need to understand this learning process. Constructing knowledge can happen by “activating already existent cognitive structures or by constructing new cognitive structures that accommodate new input” (Dooly, 2008, p. 22). In this process, students become independent learners and responsible for their own learning as well as their peers’; and as a result, knowledge will be constructed, and transformed, by students themselves. Technological tools can be a good way for students to exchange information online whether synchronously or asynchronously. However, it is important for instructor to understand that there is no best method for doing this; it depends on many factors as identified by Dooly, which include: group personality, local constraints, age of students, objectives of the overall project and many other contextual factors.

Finally, grading and assessing individuals in collaborative work is another critical issue associated with group work. The purpose of the assessment is to evaluate group productivity and to determine how well students worked together as effective members of a group. Therefore, assessing individual’s contribution to the group is as important as the final production of the group. The idea of evaluating students in a group work can seem challenging simply because individuals are not working individually but they are working with others.

To ensure fairness in grading individuals in online collaborative work and to ensure participation by all group members, the instructor can use (1) individual assessment, (2) assess individual contribution, and (3) use self, peer, and group assessment techniques.

Individual assessment. While learning and skills are built by group work, it is appropriate to assess students individually through tests or assignments throughout the semester. The downside of this is that student’s work within an online group is not directly assessed. However, the instructor could assess students on the learning that has occurred within the group setting.

Assessing individual contribution can be done in both face-to-face and online learning environments. In online environments, however, the instructor and students can keep track of all their assigned work. Students are able to record video or audio conferences, and store online chats or writings, providing greater opportunity to reflect on their individual contribution within the group work and submitted at the end of the group project.

Self, peer, and group assessment techniques are very beneficial in online collaborative learning for both instructors and students. Generally, students who work and learn in groups are very aware of their own and peers’ contributions to the collaborative work. This awareness of knowledge can be used during the assessment. There are different techniques used to assess oneself and group members. Students can provide anonymous assessment of self and other group members such as creating a pie chart to show how much each member contributed in the group. If the majority of the group members reported someone as a not working member, that person’s grades can be affected. The instructor should provide guidelines to students for self and peer evaluation. Some examples of guidelines for the assessment report: participation (i.e. quality and quantity), preparation, punctuality, respect, contribution of ideas, creativity, and commitment. Ultimately, the instructor remains responsible for students’ final grades, but he/she could utilize the student’s recommendations when deciding how to reward individual contributions.

Resources/References

Carnegie Mellon University – Teaching with Technology – Collaboration Tools. https://www.cmu.edu/teaching/technology/whitepapers/CollaborationTools_Jan09.pdf

Dooly, M. (2008) Constructing Knowledge Together. In Dooly, M. (ed.) Telecollaborative Language Learning: A guidebook to moderating intercultural collaboration online, pp. 21-44. Bern: Peter Lang.

Figueira, A., & Leal, H. (2013). An online tool to manage and assess collaborative group work. Paper presented at the 112-XIII. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1467835970?accountid=10610

Morgan, K., Williams, K. C., Cameron, B. A., & Wade, C. E. (2014). FACULTY PERCEPTIONS OF ONLINE GROUP WORK. Quarterly Review Of Distance Education, 15(4), 37-42. https://www.uwyo.edu/fcs/_files/documents/faculty%20documents/morgan,%20williams,%20cameron,%20wade%202014.pdf

Stanford University – Yes Virginia, There Is A Big Difference Between Cooperative And Collaborative Learning Paradigms. https://tomprof.stanford.edu/posting/237

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This online course got my attention! Student and teacher views

by James Daher, President, Student Government Association and student, Economics major, French minor.

james-daher-blog-postLast summer I took Intro to Marketing with Dr. Dorene Ciletti, and she used a range of different methods for getting the students to work with the material. This included readings, video lectures, discussion boards, warm-up exercises, quizzes, simulations, exams and an extensive marketing plan.

Whereas some online courses I have experienced focused student work mostly on the discussion board, Dr. Ciletti’s class was a much more holistic approach to an online course. Not only did this range of teaching methods account for different learning styles, it also gave students more contact with the material. The same themes and key words would be in each assignment during any given week. The course required significant directed attention in order to complete the exams and marketing plan. But that effort and attention were focused directly on course content, rather than long readings and discussion board posts.

One of the more common methods in online education is the discussion board. While I believe that the discussion board is a useful piece of online education, it should not be the sole focus of the class. In my experience, it is far too easy and lacks engagement for many students.

Another hit to student engagement is that the online learning experience sacrifices the pre-established times students have with the material in the classroom. To make up for this, the online coursework should take up at least as much time as the student would spend in an actual classroom. However, if the class is all reading and discussion board based, many students lose focus and cut studying time short.

In sum, I personally prefer the physical classroom, but the potential of online courses is vast. If the course requires enough time and attention through varied teaching methods, I believe that this potential can be unlocked. Dr. Ciletti’s course engaged and challenged me.

by Dorecilettine Ciletti, PhD, faculty, Marketing, School of Business

I enjoy teaching Introduction to Marketing, creating a context in which students build a foundation in marketing and use the concepts and theories to support integrated bottom-line success in an organization. The offer to develop an online course a few years ago intrigued me. Online education is growing, and while there are some common components, approaches to online classes vary, and I had some initial concerns. How would I engage the students? How could I deliver material so that students would learn effectively? How could I assure that course objectives would be met?

Rather than simply transferring the in-class experience to the online space, I made substantial changes. Working with the end in mind, I organized material into content modules, and organized the course such that we would complete one or two modules each week, with each module supporting clearly stated learning objectives.

Students need a structure that’s easy to access and navigate, and the lesson plan and learning module features in Blackboard allowed me to build modules that incorporated various content types and skill-building activities. Discussion boards can be used to share information, promote discussion, and provide evidence of learning, but used as the only activity option, it can become a chore. So, our weekly modules included links to instructor-developed brief lectures, publisher-based content, outside video content including TED Talks, some discussion board activities, and yes, even tests.

Using a variety of activities within a consistent course structure, I believe, provided a richer learning experience for the students. They knew basically what to expect for each module so they could prepare and allocate time accordingly, but I kept the course lively with various types of assignments.

Building critical thinking is important, and, borrowing from Bloom’s Taxonomy, I wanted students to move from remembering to creating. Each module promoted interaction with content in several different ways, so students had the opportunity to understand, apply, analyze, and evaluate. The final project was designed for students to create a marketing plan utilizing concepts and skills from the entire course.

Student feedback is valuable, and I so appreciate that James Daher took the time to share his perception of this online Intro to Marketing course.  What better encouragement could a faculty member receive?

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SCALE-up with micro workshops and wrapper sessions

 

laurel-2013by Laurel Willingham-McLain, Director, Center for Teaching Excellence, Duquesne University

At the Duquesne University Center for Teaching Excellence we’re trying out some new programs in the SCALE initiative.  SCALE, which stands for Small Changes Advancing Learning, was inspired by James Lang’s, Small Changes in Teaching series, and his book, Small Teaching: Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning (2016), as well small-teaching-imageas  AAC&U’s High-Impact Practices and the Transparency in Learning and Teaching Project.

Our initiative continues to explore the power harnessed by small changes in teaching and learning—methods that are

  • achievable by instructors in varied contexts,
  • based on principles of learning
  • known to benefit students equitably
  • open to creativity.

Lang, in Small Teaching, writes, “you can create powerful learning for your students through the small, everyday decisions you make in designing your courses, engaging in classroom practice, communicating with your students, and addressing any challenges that arise.”

twelve-twentyNew for Spring 2017, we are offering a series of 30-minute lunchtime workshops, 12:20-12:50 pm. Designed to accommodate busy schedules, these micro workshops highlight a teaching and learning topic and introduce simple, proven strategies that you can incorporate into your course right away.  Associate Director for Faculty Development, Steve Hansen, came up with the idea for these workshops as a way “to model to faculty how small teaching practices can have big connections to student learning.  We want faculty to experience how learning in a micro-context can have macro-learning implications that faculty can apply and scale up for their own teaching contexts.”

Spring topics include transparent assignment design, how emotions motivate learning, micro-aggressions, using nudges to deepen learning, and a student-learning graffiti wall.  The series will begin on January 23 and 24 and will continue through February.

Follow-up opportunities will be available through wrapper sessions and consultations with CTE staff.  Wrapper sessions provide faculty with an opportunity to reflect and learn from experience; they are based on the learning strategy called an Exam Wrapper, which guides students to review and analyze their performance (and their instructor’s feedback) on an exam, with an eye to improving their next attempt.

In December 2016, we tried out our first Course Wrapper where participants enjoyed time to reflect individually and with colleagues about a fall course, and then outlined steps for their spring courses based on their reflection and feedback. Participants repgift-with-boworted that “The reflection and discussion were a great way to put a bow on the semester” and the Wrapper session provided a “wonderful way to wind down the semester.”  The Wrapper
sessions encourage teachers to practice the systematic reflection they ask of students.  Participants are invited to consider successful aspects of a recent course and plan ways to model future teaching on what worked well.  We take a whole-person approach, encouraging faculty to plan ways to bring their very best selves to their teaching.  New spring Wrapper Sessions look at Students Evaluation Surveys and assignment design.

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Our semester culminates May 17-18 in the seventh annual Inspired Teaching Retreat at the Spiritan Retreat Center.

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Rhetoric, Combs and Rhizomes: Q & A with Dr. Derek Hook (Part II)

hook-headshotarvin-simonby Derek Hook, PhD, Associate Professor in Psychology at Duquesne University & Arvin Simon, MA, Doctoral Student in Psychology at Duquesne University

Derek’s work focuses on psychoanalysis with expertise in the area of critical psychology and psychosocial studies. Arvin is an Instructional Consultant for Teaching Assistants at the Center for Teaching Excellence.

In response to Arvin’s generous characterization of the ‘rhizomatic’ nature of my approach to graduate teaching and in relation to his two direct questions, I (Derek Hook) would like to offer a few brief thoughts. watch

  • I am worried that I won’t have enough time to cover all the material! Is facilitating a discussion an efficient use of my lecture time?

Perhaps not always, but we could reverse the question: surely NOT facilitating a discussion in class is often a bad use of teaching time. This is often the case when the material is overly theoretical, when it contains much that is paradoxical or counter-intuitive, or simply when students (and professors!) are not sure they properly understand the texts in question. Discussions, particularly when paired with the tactic of asking students to frame the inquiry, can be a good way of ensuring that students read in the first place. Through student participation, systematic errors or questionable assumptions can be revealed, then engaged and worked with.

It is a good idea to work with ‘questions from the floor’ and use them to direct students to crucial facets of the text. ‘Preparing to be spontaneous’ is a nice oxymoronic way of framing this approach to teaching: I come prepared (perhaps with some possible talking-points, crucial debates, points of uncertainty, critical challenges, etc.), but keep these in the background until needed, precisely as a way of drawing out crucial facets from what emerges in more general discussion. I also make sure that students have access to scaffolding materials covering the main material (i.e. handouts with summaries of key arguments; schematic, diagrammatic depictions of the material; accessible secondary readings, etc.), which they have in front of them when one decides to risk a slightly more open-ended discussion. This is also the learning environment where I believe teachers learn the most; they are ‘unscripted times’ when teacher and student alike approach a set of ideas from a different set of problems or conceptual concerns.

Constantly asking for examples from students puts them to work on thinking how their lives are – in a manner of speaking – also a topic of learning.

Sometimes the best and most effective practical everyday examples of the ideas in question come from class discussions. I am always on the lookout for fresh examples of key ideas, because they are often what students remember best about a given theoretical notion. Constantly asking for examples from students puts them to work on thinking how their lives are – in a manner of speaking – also a topic of learning. It also means that the learning continues beyond the parameters of the classroom, to the movie theatre, the realm of earlier personal memories, to the realms of fiction and popular culture. Soliciting examples is a great way of prompting discussion and also, importantly, of isolating instructive counter-examples (i.e. pointing to why certain apparent ‘examples’ DON’T work).disc

  • I am concerned that if I lead discussions on difficult topics then students might get offended or offend one another. What can I do to create a conversation that does not shut people down?

in teaching, the basic unit of information should not (at graduate level, anyways) be a fact, an isolated assertion, but rather a tension, a dynamic, a contradiction, a pair of terms, a debate

Perhaps the obvious point is to concede that discussions can be a risk in certain student groups – especially when lengthy and gratuitous tangents seem a strong possibility – and yet they bring the dimension of ‘liveness’ to the classroom, and with it, a sense of the unpredictable and spontaneous. A great deal of emphasis should be placed first though on facilitating trust in a given student group, and avoiding the snooty or judgmental intellectual atmosphere and enabling an atmosphere where everyone can – and should – contribute.

One suggestion here is that in teaching, the basic unit of information should not (at graduate level, anyways) be a fact, an isolated assertion, but rather a tension, a dynamic, a contradiction, a pair of terms, a debate. This may not always be possible, but, this idea can at least frame discussions, so that views and counter-views are taught together in a way that prioritizes the spirit of intellectual debate, of hearing out, of considering unintended consequences, of Devil’s Advocate kinds of arguments. This type of framing also sometimes adds momentum to developing discussions.

It is often a very good move to acknowledge areas of uncertainty, indicating from time to time that one does not completely understand something. It lets students know that they too should be allowed to ‘think out loud’, to extrapolate, guess, take a stab at what some or other evasive or difficult conceptual formulation might mean.  If one can communicate a collaborative ethos or approach to working through materials, this often helps a great deal also. Signaling that we are explorers – and indeed, a team of explorers – of a given theory goes someway to dissipating counter-productive rivalries within a group of learners.

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Rhetoric, Combs and Rhizomes: Q & A with Dr. Derek Hook (Part I)

hook-headshotarvin-simonby Derek Hook, PhD, Associate Professor in Psychology at Duquesne University & Arvin Simon, MA, Doctoral Student in Psychology at Duquesne University

Derek’s work focuses on psychoanalysis with expertise in the area of critical psychology and psychosocial studies. Arvin is an Instructional Consultant for Teaching Assistants at the Center for Teaching Excellence.

For the past four years, I (Arvin Simon) have taken coursework towards my doctorate in clinical psychology. I have also enjoyed wonderful courses on philosophers such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and Martin Buber to name a few. Each of my instructors found creative ways of presenting course material to students who did not have a background in philosophy. Dr. Derek Hook was one such instructor who stood out to me in the way he was able to lead instructional, collaborative and engaging discussions.

With Derek’s permission, I have written a reflection on how I experienced his class discussions. Derek was then invited to read my manuscript and respond with his own comments. This intertextual exchange might serve to illustrate how relations of power and knowledge were negotiated both as an object of study in our class (on Michel Foucault) and as a pedagogical discourse that was enacted between instructor and students.

My mentor, Dr. Steve Hansen, shared with me three types of conversations that can occur in a classroom.

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A comb conversation

First, there are what he called rhetorical conversations. These are basically instances where the instructor is lecturing at students without giving them the opportunity to meaningfully critique the text or initiate discussions on a topic that interests them. The second type of conversation, comb conversations, frequently occur in classes where personal material is shared. Here, the instructor invites students to respond to the text but conversations are restricted between the instructor and an individual student. Because of mutual vulnerabilities (e.g. not wanting to seem ignorant; sharing personal opinions) the student and instructor may feel safer having a private conversation in the context of a classroom discussion. The third, and most difficult type of conversation to initiate, is a rhizomatic conversation. Eponymously named, the rhizome conversation does not stay fixed between an individual student and instructor. In fact, the conversation may extend in several different directions and involve multiple layers of interactions. These conversations are geared at getting students to engage with a) the material (instructional) b) the instructor (collaborative) and c) each other (engaging). Dr. Kathryn Strom has written extensively about applying the philosophical concept of the rhizome in the classroom.

rhizomeThere were a few things that Derek did very well to create rhizome conversations.

1) He clearly modelled a willingness to learn from both the text and his students. When discussing difficult passages of text, Derek wondered aloud about the ambiguities and contradictions in the text and even shared his own uncertainties as to the meanings. He invited us to collaboratively engage with him in making sense of dense material while also scaffolding our hermeneutics within social and historical contexts. This is consistent with rhizomatic conversations that aim to be transparent about the way that knowledge is formulated and the effects that it has within academia and the broader social-cultural context.

2) By incorporating written reflections with close, textual analysis Derek was able to invite students who would not ordinarily speak in class to share their thoughts. Derek seemed to always hear student opinions in a generous light and recognized that we might not be experts on the material but we had very worthy ideas that could be fruitfully related to the class. Rhizomatic conversations are horizontal (vs. hierarchical, vertical) in nature and invite collaborative and open-ended inquiry into complex subject matter where linear, authoritative knowledge is often subjective or incomplete.

3) Derek encouraged us to make the material our own by relating it to examples of our own clinical work or scholarship. Rhizomatic conversations are often interdisciplinary and recognize multiple intersecting lines (e.g. politics, economics, ecology) that each bring a different perspective to bear.

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Part I of this post concludes by inviting Derek to respond, in Part II, to two common concerns instructors might have in leading rhizomatic conversations:

  • I am worried that I won’t have enough time to cover all the material! Is facilitating a discussion an efficient use of my lecture time?
  • I am concerned that if I lead discussions on difficult topics then students might get offended or offend one another. What can I do to create a conversation that does not shut people down?


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Using Academic Posters in the Classroom

by Steven A. Perry, PhD student in Systematic Theology at Duquesne University. His work focuses on theological anthropology and the intersection betwheadshot-2een theology and contemporary life.

Ask the typical college student today about their media intake and you will get a bevy of responses: Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix…and the list goes on.

Technology has become ubiquitous in our society. A quick glance at the modern college classroom shows that instructors have a DVD player, a computer and/or a projector at their disposal.  However, these teaching tools only become useful if we use them wisely.  The question for the contemporary educator is this: how can we capitalize on our students’ media savvy to engage the content and skills of our course? While the pervasiveness of technology presents new challenges to the pedagogical task (ah hem…cell phones anyone?), I believe one way teachers can tap into their students’ digital aptitude is by assigning academic poster projects in the classroom.perry-poster

Images are powerful—and educators can capitalize on students’ creative impulses by inviting them to put their digital skills to work in the service of their grades.

Academic posters offer students the opportunity to apply their aesthetic sensibility and mental acuity to a specific research problem. By choosing thought-provoking course material and encouraging students to ask questions, educators can position the academic poster assignment to be a significant form of active learning. The advantage is that it forces students to present their ideas visually. Translating ideas from simple text into an interactive format requires a strong grasp of the research question and fosters critical thinking skills.

Interaction can take multiple forms: the presenter and people viewing the poster can engage the ideas together.  The poster can also open up interactive media capabilities, for example, through QR codes enabling viewers to view a related video on their own device.

Done well, the act of creating an academic poster necessitates that students ask deeper questions. As a bonus, students can submit their course work to research symposia or conferences.  Academic posters have become common in humanities conferences in recent years, influenced in part by the sciences.  These visual displays of learning can tap into students’ natural media instincts.

Assigning as part of a final research paper or project the requirement for students to visually present their findings in front of the class helps students develop real world skills for the workplace. Presenting and organizing information by communicating through images and text gives students the opportunity to take research and make it their own—putting their own unique stamp on issues presented in the class. Utilizing PowerPoint as a simple presentation format or even poster boards with text boxes and pictures cut out and pasted can help students avoid the pricey printing fees of producing one large poster.

Using academic posters in the classroom helps students learn to communicate visually in an image-dominant culture. If “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then it is vital for us teach our students when and how to use the right ones.

Student experience

by Emtinan Alqurashi, doctoral candidate, Instructional Technology and Leadership at Duquesne University.  Her research interests include onlineemtinan-alqurashi-headshot teaching and learning, students’ learning experience, and instructional technology.

As a student, I created an academic poster presentation in the Qualitative Research course (Education, Duquesne University). In order to prepare for the poster research presentation, students were asked to write and submit four draft sections for review and feedback.

  1. Title and brief description
  2. Introduction and literature review
  3. Entire draft
  4. Final proposal and poster presentation

My project, “An analysis of motivational beliefs, expectancies, and goals and their impact on learners’ satisfaction in online learning environments in higher education,” focused on students’ online learning experience with an emphasis on self-efficacy, outcome expectancy, goal setting and their relation to student satisfaction. I went on to present this poster at the 2015 International Education Conference in Orlando.  The course assignment had prepared me for this opportunity.  alqurashi-poster-title-abstract

The benefit of the poster session as a final assignment is that students are forced to think critically and get feedback to improve their ideas, research questions, methodology, analysis, and more. Preparing a visual presentation that summarizes written research is not a skill that students come with; I had to learn how to visually present my learning.  The peer interaction helps you see how far can you take your idea, that your idea may need a twist, maybe the problem is not clear, or there’s related research you didn’t know about. Also, by listening tocam05569 other presentations, you learn to improve your own research skills and knowledge.

The poster presentation helped me not only to develop a strong research proposal, but also gave me the chance to interact with peers, talk about my research, and receive constructive feedback.

Examples and tips on making academic posters:

  1. Duquesne University Undergraduate Research Symposium  http://www.duq.edu/research/student-research/undergraduate-research/urss
  2. NYU Library: How to Create a Research Poster: Poster Basics  http://guides.nyu.edu/posters
  1. YouTube Video: How to create a Poster in PowerPoint  https://youtu.be/1c9Kd_mUFDM

 

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Creating a Welcoming Classroom Community

by Deborah Scigliano, Ed.D., Department of Foundations and Leadership, School of Education, Duquesne Universityscigliano-headshot

Setting the tone for learning is important to creating the most effective learning environment possible. We are more motivated to learn when we feel connected to the instructor and class colleagues. This applies face-to-face as well as online. Indeed, online courses need special attention to make sure all students feel connected. Here are some ideas to spark your inner learning host.

Before students arrive, send them a welcome email. Let them know a bit about their upcoming course. More importantly, let them know how glad you are that you will be learning together.

Welcome messages are an engaging way to greet students before the class begins on the first day and before each subsequent class or unit. In face-to-face classes write a message either on the whiteboard or a slide to welcome students and set a focus for the class. In Duquesne’s Flex Tech classrooms, students can see the message at their own learning group table.

To welcome students in an online course, record an audio welcome message or post a visual welcome message on the course site. Be sure to emphasize the welcome and leave the “nuts and bolts” to another message.

Warm-ups are short ways to get to know one another. They provide a transition from where students were before class started to where they are now going to be in class. They serve as “head-clearers” as well as community builders.

Examples of warm-ups: tell 3 things about your day, what is your favorite _______? and the ever-popular M & M warm-up. The M & M warm-up involves passing around a bag of M & M’s and inviting each person to take as many as they want. To a hungry student, this sounds great! Those who are new to this warm-up often take a handful.  scigliano-mmNext, each person needs to say one positive thing about themselves for each M & M. That is when the whole-handful people tend to regret their decision because they find it difficult to identify that many positive attributes in themselves. However, it is a great way to learn about the people in the class, including the instructor. Also, it encourages people to think about the qualities that they have. This is not an easy reflection. We tend to see our flaws much more readily than our gifts.

The M & M warm-up can be adapted to online use.  One week, ask each student to pick a number from one to ten. The next week, ask each student to post as many positive qualities as the number they selected. To encourage online learners to read the qualities of their class colleagues, have a Treasure Hunt where students gather one treasure from each student and instructor to compile a list of the qualities participants bring to the group.

Whether you teach face-to-face or online, be sure your students know you are glad they are hescigliano-flextech-message-welcomere. Design opportunities to learn about each class member in order to build a welcoming classroom community.

Here’s wishing you a year full of learning that is welcoming and includes opportunities to learn more about your classroom community!

Bio: Dr. Scigliano teaches in the School of Education, Department of Foundations and Leadership. Her research interests include telementoring, online learning, self-efficacy, and peer coaching. Creating a classroom community, in face-to-face and online classes, is a priority in her teaching.