Supporting the student experience @
OUADilemma:Given the dramatic rise in enrolments and the diverse natureof OUA students, in what ways can we support studentsso that they have a greater chance of success in their studiesand thereby improve retention?Part of the answer:Adopting a systematic approach to the professional developmentof online tutors to provide students with ongoing support throughasynchronous discussion forums (ADFs).
Benefits of ADFs• Robust and
easy to use.• Cost-effective and time-efficient option.• More flexible than synchronous tools.• Enable capacity for reflection and higher order cognitive processing.• Benefits of text-based representation for thinking and writing skills.• Provide support and reduce isolation.
Potential negatives of ADFs• Thorpe
(2008 p.60) use of ADFs „has not produced easy wins in terms of high level participation and quality contributions‟.• Conole (2008 et al, pp.516-17) Students may prefer other communication channels; Students can dominant groups; Potential time lags between postings and responses; Deep engagement may not occur.
Why do we need ELOD?A
critical factor in ensuring the successful use of asynchronous discussiongroups is the role played by tutors in motivating and engaging students(Paasuke and Lynch, 2011).McPherson and Nunes (2009, p.235) write that online learning initiatives oftentend to privilege a focus on “design” while “insufficient attention is given to thedelivery process”. As they note further:“These efforts have little chance of succeeding without a tutoring teamthat has the appropriate online tutoring skills necessary to explore andmaximize the designed environments … the tutoring team is at least asimportant as the design team.”
About ELOD• OUA has been
offering online professional development courses from 2008 onwards – Online Student Centred Discussion (OSCD).• Engaging Learners in Online Discussion (ELOD) is a revised approach, which began in 2011.• ELOD is run from the OUA installation of Moodle.• Available to all Coordinators and Tutors involved with OUA units.• Currently four sessions per year (one per undergraduate study period).
About ELODThe ELOD initiative is
informed by the literature which critiques thelimitations of a „transmission‟ approach to professional developmentand advocates a „social constructivist‟ approach to the use of onlinelearning (Reynolds et. al.,2002, 9-10,22-27; Sloman, 2003, pp.40, 96).This literature contends that knowledge and skills are best developedwhen participants actively construct their understanding of issuesand engage in ongoing interaction with others that are part of acommunity of learners.
About ELOD (continued)• Convenient: Sessions
run for 4 weeks (2.5 hours per week for a total of 10 hours).• Unique content: Developed in consultation with experienced OUA Coordinators and Tutors. Includes a series of “tips and tricks for online tutors” which participants can easily incorporate within their practice.• Reflective and collaborative learning: Use of ADFs provides the opportunity for reflective learning. ELOD also promotes collaboration and interaction between participants across a diverse range of OUA Providers.• Authentic learning: ELOD offers participants the experience of being an online learner. Many participants have stated that this gives them a greater insight into what it is like for their students.
Week 1: Getting started as
an OUA online tutor • About OUA; Using asynchronous discussion forums • Follow Unit Coordinator/Convenor guidelines • Characteristics of OUA learners • Introduce yourself, explain your role, and review unit requirements • Encourage netiquette; Use icebreakers
Week 2: How to be
an effective online tutor • Specific roles of the online tutor • Promote increased learner engagement • Know your subject • Be authentic • Be patient and thorough • Be responsive • Provide study hints and strategies
Be patient and thorough Chris
Kandunias, School of Commerce, UniSA. "It is really important to take the time and make the effort to respond to the questions of students. Sometimes students will ask questions which have been answered in a previous posting or are covered in the course materials or textbook. One response would be to simply refer students to read the relevant documents. However, in the long run making the effort to provide the specific information to students can help to motivate students and make them realise the value of participating in the online discussion environment."
Week 3: Challenges and strategies
in online tutoring • Use effective communication strategies • Adopt time management strategies • Encourage participation • Move beyond a “response to queries” approach • If a problem arises don‟t avoid it • Be resilient
If a problem arises don‟t
avoid it Associate Professor, Brenton Fiedler School of Commerce, UniSA. "If a problem arises, don’t avoid it. If you make an error in a posting, or you forget to keep a promise to students, provide wrong advice or something else has gone wrong, the best strategy is to talk to the students and explain the circumstances, ask their forgiveness and then follow up promptly. Communication and acknowledgement is critical, and it is dangerous to avoid a problem if created. Confront it, admit it, correct it and move on quickly."
Encourage participation Dr. Hennessey Hayes,
School of Criminology, Griffith University We know from experience that not all on-line learners are comfortable studying in an on-line environment. So, there will be several students who "lurk" or follow discussion board posts but never contribute themselves. While these students are still getting something from their on-line tutorials, it is still helpful to encourage these students to become more active in their tutorial discussions. One way to do this is by reassuring all students that participating in on-line discussions can benefit them directly by helping them to better engage with unit material. Also, to encourage more active participation among students, its important to clearly communicate the value and relevance of on-line discussions. When students can begin to recognise the value of on-line discussion participation, they may be more likely to become actively engaged.
Week 4: Integrating support services,
the TSM and emerging technologies • Be aware of OUA support mechanisms • Promote the use of Smarthinking • Be aware of the Tutorial support management model (TSM) • Start learning to use synchronous facilitation tools • Consider the implications of emerging technologies
Big Blue Button – user
feedback “In teaching basic mathematics on line we anticipate that it can be used as a forum to enable students to request help with individual questions/concepts.” “I think it goes a long way to overcoming the isolation of online learning as it gives me the opportunity to have personal discussions with students that are otherwise not possible. I think its a fantastic tool.” “I have used many webinar software - they are all basically the same. It is great to have use of an Open Source tool.”
Impact of ELOD• From 2008
to 2010, the OSCD course had 155 participants.• In 2011, the ELOD course had 230 participants. Some participants opted to audit the course, but there 75 completions.• In session 1 for 2012, there were 42 completions.• The evaluation feedback has been very positive.• Anecdotal comments received from participants by email:“I also want to thank you for the fantastic work you have done to prepare this course andto engage all the participants in the online discussions.”“Was extremely informative actually, and the information gained per time spent was reallyhigh. Has changed my paradigm somewhat on how I viewed what we do on-line and seta framework for the future as well.”
Future directions• Review and improve
ELOD content based on participant/reviewers feedback.• Consider giving synchronous communication tools a stronger profile in the course.• Promote continued enrolments in future sessions of ELOD.
ReferencesConole, G., de Laat, M.,
Dillon, T. and Darby, J. (2008) „Disruptive technologies‟,„pedagogical innovation‟: What‟s new? Findings from an in-depth study of students‟use and perception of technology, Computers and Education, 50 (2), 511–24.Goold, A., Coldwell, J. & Craig, A. (2010). An examination of the role of the e-tutor.Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(5), 704-716.http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet26/goold.htmlLynch, G. & Paasuke, P. (2011). Key elements of the tutorial support managementmodel. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 27(1), 28-40.http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet27/lynch.html
ReferencesMcPherson, M. & Nunes, M.
B. (2009). The role of tutors as a fundamental componentof online learning support. In U. Bernath, A. Szücs, A. Tait and M. Vidal (Eds.),Distance and e-learning in transition: Learning innovation, technology and socialchallenges,(pp.235-246), London, Hoboken, NJ: ISTE/Wiley.Reynolds, J., Caley, L., and Mason, R. (2002) How do people learn? Chartered Instituteof Personnel and Development. London.Sloman, Martyn. (2003) Training in the age of the learner. Chartered Institute ofPersonnel and Development, London.Thorpe, M. (2008) Effective online interaction: mapping course design to bridgefrom research to practice, Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24 (1), 57–72.http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet24/thorpe.pdf