OverFLO questionsOverFLO

is what we called a topic thread that started in a previous FLO.

We found that participants asked “big picture” questions that we didn’t have the time or place to really dig into!

We did answer some of them (at least in part) and other participants contributed their experiences and suggestions. But the questions are good ones – what Grant Wiggins might have called “essential questions” (or maybe that was L. Dee Finke?)

Anyway, this page is to collect the questions and some of the partial answers. Feel free to add comments if you have questions or suggestions to contribute!

Starting from the most recent dangling questions:

1. Strategies for connecting with students in an online course

“I miss not having the face to face contact with students especially around body language and checking in.

How can I build in activities where I can get a sense of how the students are doing? Can I fulfill my need to feel connected?

I know that the course isn’t about me. It should be set up to be student-centric, but is there danger of facilitators/instructors not enjoying the online teaching and therefore avoiding it in the future if they don’t feel connected to their students beyond content and assessments?”

Note: This instructor sends regular check-in emails and has posted videos. She receives acknowledgements (thanking her for checking in) but there are not consistent discussion board requirements so there isn’t a way for her to “see” her students on a weekly basis – to which she is accustomed.

2. Strategies for helping students who are not comfortable with the technology

Do you spend most of your time addressing LMS or other technical issues instead of dialoguing on the content? Creating, maintaining/sustaining on online learning community can be hampered by learner’s experience with the technology (like trying to figure how to post).

3. Experiences with setting up an informal student meeting place – an online “cafe”

When setting up and participating in a “cafe” through the discussion boards, do the students also comment on their day or just on what you posted? What are the parameters that make a good online cafe?

Some responses:

  • mixed feelings about “cafes” – not respectful of participants workload (or the demands of their daily lives) – sometimes can be “too much information”
  • facilitators need to “strike a balance” also need to understand “the nebulous and shifting boundaries of student-teacher relationships”
  • cafes are difficult for students who are new to Canada, and “don’t have that shared pragmatic knowledge and lack the language to be able to articulate their questions”
  • cafe would add another level of technology that might cause a participant to drop the course. If there is no clear value in terms of learning the content, why do it?
  • A better approach for students who are new to online learning would be to spend some time introducing the basics of the online environment: discussion forums, etc.
  • the concept of the discussion cafe is to help learners feel more connected with each other and therefore more connected to the course

4. Strategies for facilitating a self-paced course (if you know that most students will be taking other courses at the same time and only accessing the resources on a self-serve basis)

“How much facilitation should I be doing for this?”

5. Ethical issues around texting with students

It seems to be the main way for a them to communicate these days and therefore would be an effective way to communicate with them.”

  • Issues are similar to phoning students – some students would find this too personal – sometimes cultural backgrounds will add gender issues to these sensitivities.
  • Concerns about establishing another communication channel to manage
  • Some adult education groups use WhatsApp. A safer choice is Remind. It has better privacy features, does not require sharing phone numbers and was designed specifically for educators. The disadvantage, compared to WhatsApp, is that it is not something everyone is already using anyway so it takes an installation and remembering to use it.
  • “At my institution, instructors who teach online classes are issued a college cell phone to facilitate communication with the students.”
  • One instructor’s advice:
    Never share a personal cell phone or email with students. “As we navigate the tricky waters of new technologies …we need to be aware, not just of boundaries, but of privacy concerns and laws. Because I teach foundational learners who are new to Canada, I include __digital citizenship__ in my classes.)
    Don’t be friends with students you are teaching. It’s OK to use a Facebook page set up especially for students.
  • Don’t mix personal and professional social media channels