Best Practice to Support Online Student Engagement

Best Practice to Support Online Student Engagement

Lorie Cook-Benjamin (Fort Hays State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2953-8.ch015
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Abstract

A best practice is a technique or methodology that, through experience and research, has proven to reliably lead to a desired result (Rouse, 2007). This chapter explores a best practice that aimed to increase the engagement of online students in a teacher education course. The best practice is related to the Community of Inquiry (CoI; Anderson, & Archer, 2000), a framework that provides an understanding of the development of online learning communities (Swan & Ice, 2010). The chapter includes a brief review of the literature on the factors that foster student engagement; online student engagement is also discussed. A description is provided of a course assignment that was modified to increase the engagement of online students. The results of this assignment's modification were positively perceived by the online students. The chapter concludes with recommended technology tools to foster engagement of online students.
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Introduction

With burgeoning numbers of students enrolling in online classes, traditional teaching methodologies, such as lectures, are becoming obsolete; one significant factor of this change is Web 2.0 technology (Hainline, Gaines, Long Feather, Padilla, & Terry, 2010). According to Hew and Cheung (2013), Web 2.0 technologies appear to have a positive impact on student learning. In their study of sixty-five pre-service teachers, Compton, Davis, and Correta (2010) found a similar result. These researchers noted common pre-service teachers’ misconceptions of online instruction - threats to careers, viability of virtual instruction, academic dishonesty, reduced interaction, lack of teacher feedback - were lessened through online curricular innovations.

In addition to Web 2.0 technologies enhancing student learning, a best practice can also positively influence student learning. A best practice is a technique or methodology that, through experience and research, has proven to reliably lead to a desired result (Rouse, 2007). As the definition states, it was through experience and applied research that a best practice was selected to support an increase in the engagement of online students. This chapter describes the efforts in a diversity course, and using a teacher education assignment, to more fully engage online students.

The chapter begins with a look at the Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework, a theoretical model that has grown in reputation since its creation. CoI, as a pedagogical model, provides an understanding of the development of online learning communities (Swan & Ice, 2010). In terms of instruction, an important factor in a learning community is student engagement. The chapter continues with a brief review of the literature on engagement, in general, and then continues to discuss online student engagement. Next, a higher education assignment used in a teacher education course is described, including the main issue that emerged with its use and how the assignment was adapted by implementing an asynchronous tool. Information on the asynchronous tool is, likewise, provided. The chapter concludes with recommendations for technology-focused and other engagement strategies that could be used in online courses.

By the end of the chapter, the reader will meet the following objectives: (a) relate the Community of Inquiry framework to an online learning community, (b) become informed of the literature on student engagement including factors that promote online student engagement, (c) recognize an issue which emerged on an assignment due to a lack of the Community of Inquiry - social presence, (d) conclude why the asynchronous tool remedied the issue, and (e) select technology-focused and other engagement strategies that provide the best fit for online course assignments.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Asynchronous Learning: Students learn the same material at different times and locations.

Learning Management System (LMS): A software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting and delivery of electronic educational technology courses or training programs.

Active Learning: A teaching approach in which learning is encouraged by actively engaging with the learning process, or, put more simply, learning through doing. ( Gibbs, 1988 )

Web 2.0: A concept which allows individuals to collaborate with one another and contribute to the authorship of content, customize web sites for their use, and instantaneously publish their thoughts (Alexander, 2006 AU33: The in-text citation "Alexander, 2006" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ; Heafner & Friedman, 2008 AU34: The in-text citation "Heafner & Friedman, 2008" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ; as cited in Hew & Cheunge, 2013 AU35: The in-text citation "Hew & Cheunge, 2013" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Learning Community: Comprised of individuals who collaboratively engage in critical discourse and reflection in which they construct meaning and mutual understanding ( Garrison, 2007 ).

Voicethread: A cloud-based application that works with web browsers to enhance student engagement in online classes.

Literature Circle: Small, temporary discussion groups collaborating on some type of reading.

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