This year, I want to improve the communication in my classes. Since my classes are all online this term, it’s critical that I find the best way for students to connect and collaborate. My students will never all be online at the same time and they will never all be in the same place. That reality makes it difficult to build connections and conversations.
In the Fall Semester, I relied on Participation Logs to ask students to take responsibility for how they interact in the course. The logs do build student agency, but I know I need to do more to encourage collaboration and interaction. Students checked off the bare minimum, and many waited until the last minute to work on their goals. I want to continue using the participation logs, but I have been searching for a complementary strategy that would build in more consistency and engagement.
My research took me to the Digital Storytelling course (ds106) at Mary Washington, a very popular and successful online course, which led me to the resources from Kris Shaffer’s online section for the course from Fall 2016. That’s where I found Shaffer’s Self-Reflection Template. Each week, Shaffer asks students to complete a number of activities related to the course. For example, they post their work, comment on the work of their classmates, and share ideas. Students fill out the Self-Reflection Template to report on the work that they have finished, adding links to their work where appropriate.
I liked that the strategy paralleled with the participation logs, asking students to track and report on their accomplishments in the course. Students could still summarize their best work in their participation logs, but they could track everything they did in weekly checklists, modeled on the one that Shaffer uses. Additionally, the strategy asks students to find and report on their work. I would not have the burden of finding and validating the work of all 90 students. They could turn in a summary of their work each week, giving me the luxury of spending more time engaging students and less time on bookkeeping.
Last week, I tried out the weekly activity points checklist for the first time. The blog post for the week outlines the activities that students need to complete. The last item students are to complete is to download and complete the 01/23 to 1/27 Template to submit details on their work for the week. As I have checked their work in the last week, I found that they had jumped into the online discussions immediately. Few waited until the last minute. So far, the strategy feels like a successful one.
I am hoping to see the same response this week, as students begin their first major writing project. I’ll let you know what happens. In the meantime, what do you do to encourage consistent engagement and communication in your classes? Leave me a comment below and let me know.
Photo Credit: 2009/365/342 Office on the Road, by Alan Levine on Flickr, used under a CC-BY 2.0 license