Interacting with other students in the distant learning process can provide for provocative exchanges. I am a veteran of many courses conducted online-and through several learning institutions. While some may view this practice as a hindrance in communication amongst students, I found it refreshing.
There were subtle differences in the methods each university demanded student participation, but each were effective. One course provided three separate forums to allow for exchanging ideas – not only with other students, but with the instructor as well.
I found this to be a benefit not commonly experienced in today’s college classrooms. An open discussion, not restricted to a vocal few, but inclusive of timid or otherwise quiet students. Of the three forums, two were mandatory and a third was optional. One manner, which was actually graded as class participation, was the posting of three relevant questions or answering three questions posed by other students or a combination of the two. The questions needn’t be profound, they could even be casual statements about the reading assignment.
Secondly, there was a weekly essay due-in addition to term papers, tests etc.. The professor would include topics about that week’s reading assignments and the student was able to pick one of the topics. Write a short but articulate paper that can be reviewed by other students. Again, this was a graded exercise and allowed for other students to examine a different perspective. If there were differences of opinions or other remarks, this could have been accomplished with instant messaging.
Lastly, one night per week, at a designated time, any student who wished to seek a clearer understanding or question a reading or lecture point, could chat in real-time with the professor and other students. This was a voluntary process, but provided insight and strengthened a student’s comprehension of a subject.
I maintain this method of communication is advantageous for several reasons. It doesn’t allow for a student who may be shy, to fall to the wayside in fear of asking a question in open class. It also allows for the professor to monitor the progress of the students. The fact that a student has a week to complete the assignments-missing a class, not caught up on reading, or any other excuse doesn’t apply.
Ironically, there is more communication online between students and instructor than in the classroom. Students are able to exchange ideas without disrupting class time. And you’re able to meet people from all over, whereas a reclusive student would never had initiated a conversation. One can feel empowered by not having to be judged