synchronous online chats, students took more time to reflect
on what they’d learned, which stimulated their higher order
thinking, such as analysis, synthesis, judgment and application
of knowledge. Nearly all of the more than 200 students in the
study also reported that their online course encouraged them
to learn more effectively on their own — perhaps laying the
groundwork for better lifelong learning, the researchers say.
• Get to know your students. Research has shown that
building a sense of community within a
classroom improves student engagement. How
can you instill that camaraderie online? One
way is by offering hybrid courses in which
students come into the classroom for the first
few sessions — giving students and instructors
a chance to bond in person — and then
complete the course online. Such courses
lead to higher grades and test scores than
face-to-face instruction alone, and greater
student engagement than traditional online
instruction, according to a 2010 Department
of Education meta-analysis.
“On average, blended approaches
combining online and face-to-face
instruction had better student outcomes
than conventional instruction,” says
educational psychologist Barbara Means,
PhD, director of the Center for Technology
in Learning at SRI International and a co-author of the meta-analysis.
When time, resources or student
demographics won’t allow for any
face-to-face meetings, consider using
icebreakers to help students get to
know each other better, says psychology
professor Jay Brophy-Ellison, PhD, of the
University of Central Florida’s Center
for Distributed Learning. In a 2007
study, Brophy-Ellison set up an online
discussion thread for an introductory
psychology course and asked students
to link to their favorite movies and
music (Journal of Asynchronous
Learning Networks, Vol. 11, No. 1).
He then used those song lyrics
and movie clips to introduce
topics in online lectures.
This encouraged students to
interact with each other about
common interests through the
discussion board, and helped
material, Brophy-Ellison says.
• Be approachable. In his as-yet-unpublished research on
online instruction, psychologist Richard Clark, PhD, found that
the most successful online instructors were those who were
more willing to help students who fall behind.