Expanding on Best Practices

The instructions for this week’s discussion post were relatively straightforward. Search and find additional best practices to share with the class. Being somewhat of a research nerd, I promptly put on my research hat and went to work, anticipating finding a plethora of heretofore unknown, but amazing, best practices to share with my cohorts. The results were somewhat anticlimactic. It would appear that the researchers in the field of online learning have all drank the Kool-Aid, so to speak. The vast majority of best practices listed were some derivation of those listed in our resources. I did find a few good ideas worth mentioning. In “Best Practices for Online Instructional Communication” the author discussed several important elements pertaining to the instructor’s role in online courses such as catering to different learning styles, monitoring and managing difficult situations, and giving due consideration to the unique learner backgrounds likely encountered in online courses (Lizano-DiMare, n.d.).

According to the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) in 2008, there are five benchmarks for online learning: “academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student interaction with faculty members, enriching educational experience and a supportive campus environment” (as cited in LaPrade, Marks, Gilpatrick, Smith, & Beazley, 2011, p. 26). In addition, “Lewis and Abdul-Hamid (2006) reported that successful faculty who taught learners in the virtual environment employed the following effective strategies in order to promote learning: fostering interaction, providing feedback, facilitating learning and maintaining enthusiasm and organization” (LaPrade et al., 2011, p. 27).

Palmer (2007) opined that all “good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness and are able to weave a complex web of connections among themselves, their subject and their students” … “He provides the following summary regarding these types of instructors. 1. All master teachers share a passion for teaching. 2. Have a lifelong journey of excellence in their discipline. 3. Thirst for learning, having great zeal. 4. Continues a lifelong process of exploring pedagogy. 5. Uses different ways to deliver for a variety of learning styles, in various environments and various technologies. 6. Take into account that they are in order to reach all students. 7. Although objectively offer material still somehow rub off on students 8. Anticipate they are presenting a public face. 9. Builds rapport to help facilitating conditions that allow for engagement and creation of a learning community. 10. Realize students are not blank slates and want students to build upon knowledge that is already there. The way in which students think about the content will be impacted and influenced based on their own experiences. 11. Are cognizant of factors that inhibit student success such as family, work, time management and help students in targeting problems through proven strategies and resources” (as cited in (LaPrade et al., 2011, p. 27).

Yet another article, “Best Practices in Undergraduate Adult-Centered Online Learning: Mechanisms for Course Design and Delivery” actually performed a research study resulting the following principles as guidelines for online instruction: (1) “Encouraging staff-student contact; (2) Encouraging cooperation among students; (3) Encouraging active learning; (4) Giving prompt feedback; (5) Increasing time on task; (6) communicating high expectations; and, (7) Respecting diverse talents and ways of learning” (Grant & Thornton, 2007, p. 5-7).

The final list of best practices includes some of the most original ideas, although we are already familiar with some of them. It may be a result of the list being in consideration of teaching online high school courses. In the article, “Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Teaching in the Online High School Classroom” the author lists the following best practices:

“1. Include multiple sources of content. 2. Always provide timely, thorough feedback. 3. Provide opportunities for student choice (e.g., create an editorial or opinion piece for magazine article, blog, graphic organizer, or research essay) in evidencing their understanding of content. Ensuring students have a choice in how they will represent their understanding promotes autonomy and encourages students to take responsibility for their learning. It also encourages the differentiation of learning, as learners are likely to choose activities that are most conducive to their personal learning style. 4. Integrate student management of learning in the structure of the course. 5. Include rubrics for assessment of student work. Providing rubrics before students begin to work on their assignments, informs them of the criteria used to assess their work. 6. Include a model or example of typical discussion responses and final products. The inclusion of models also helps guide students. This is particularly helpful when teachers and students cannot meet synchronously as it provides a clear example of the teachers’ expectations. Models also show students the possible extent (depth and breadth) that their assignment should entail. 7. Create authentic learning experiences for students. 8. Have fun with student introductions at the start of the course. 9. Consider the power of social networking. Social networking sites such as ePals (http://www.epals. com), Ning (www.ning.com), and Facebook (www.facebook.com) have great potential to decrease isolation and encourage collaboration in the K-12 online learning environment. 10. Ensure students are aware of the technology requirements needed for success in the course” (Kerr, 2011, p. 29-30).

I would note that the last list of best practices, although many of the items were geared towards students in K-12, most of the principles actually carry over to adults as well. This is particularly true in situations involving older adult learners who are inexperienced with technology and online learning environments.

Lastly, I wanted to make the comment that there is clearly a dearth of information on educational best practices, both F2F and online. It would appear, and feel free to contradict me, that once again it is not the lack of knowledge that prevents utilization of best practices. Rather, the problems lie within implementation, support, funding, and resources for same. For instance, as a secondary instructor I was well aware of many of the principles and actively strove to achieve them. However, as a novice instructor with 300 students and a limited amount of time, resources, support, or funding, it was often difficult to achieve all of my idealistic goals.

References

Baghdadi, Z. D. (2011, July). Best practices in online education: Online instructors, courses, and administrators. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE, 12(3), 109-117. Retrieved from EBSCOhost

Bailey, C. J., & Card, K. A. (2009). Effective pedagogical practices for online teacher: Perception of experienced instructors. The Internet & Higher Education, 12(3/4), 152-155. Retrieved from EBSCOhost

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Fish, W. W., & Wickersham, L. E. (2009). Best practices for online instructors: Reminders. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 10(3), 279-284. Retrieved from EBSCOhost

Grant, M. R., & Thornton, H. R. (2007, December). Best practices in undergraduate adult-centered learning: Mechanisms for course design and delivery. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 3(4). Retrieved from http://jolt.merlot.org/vol3no4/grant.htm

Kerr, S. (2011, February). Tips, tools, and techniques for teaching in the online high school classroom. TechTrends, 55(1), 28-30. Retrieved from EBSCOhost

LaPrade, K., Marks, A., Gilpatrick, M., Smith, D., & Beazley, J. (2011). Walking through online classrooms: A study in best practices. Review of Higher Education and Self-Learning, 4(9), 24-30. Retrieved from EBSCOhost

Lizano-DiMare, M. (n.d.). Best practices for online instructional communication. Journal of Instruction Delivery Systems, 23(3), 17-22. Retrieved from EBSCOhost

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