Deakin University’s Dr. Jaclyn Broadbent teaches approximately 2000 students per year, but still keeps it personal with her students.
Original post September 3, 2013.
As an online instructor interaction and instruction does not occur in a traditional fashion. Space and time separate learners as they are now able to access information anytime, anyplace and from almost anywhere. Many times when I was teaching online, I was asked, "How do you stay connected and make students feel valued?" It seems hard to believe but with the correct facilitation of technology, instructors are able to do provide quality instruction and a one to one experience.
One on one when you are one to thousands! Yes, it is possible and Deakin University's Dr. Jaclyn Broadbent is making it happen. Deakin University has over 42,000 students and is Australia's ninth-largest university. 29% of the students take online courses off campus. On average, Dr. Broadbent has approximately 2000 students per year. With large numbers like that, one might assume that it is impossible to make contact in a meaningful way with students. Not so, according to Broadbent. She has found a variety of resources in the Desire2Learn Learning Environment that support her in communication and has been able to increase meaningful feedback despite the large numbers.
Dr. Broadbent understands that students need consistent communication in a course, especially one that is fully online. She has employed the use of Intelligent Agents to assist her in reaching students for various messaging. Students who have not logged into their course for an established period of time will receive an email that also includes a video note of encouragement with assistance offered. The same approach is taken for students struggling and excelling. Once Intelligent Agents have been established, the messaging is done automatically when the criteria are triggered. Dr. Broadbent feels that using Intelligent Agents also serves to help students motivate and push themselves a little harder. A win - win for all as students get the communications they need while instructors are provided an efficient streamlined way of reaching them.
Newsfeeds are also useful for reaching the entire class. Newsfeed can have links embedded, videos included, text alone, or a combination of all. Jaclyn mixes up the format but says that posting detailed and structured newsfeeds accompanied by a video of herself explaining the material on every Monday morning directing students to the tasks for the week has proven helpful. In a recent survey regarding the usefulness of the newsfeed, 89% of the students stated that it helped to motivate them and gave them the impression that the instructor cared about their success.
With the automation of other functions, Dr. Broadbent and her assistants have been able to focus on more quality feedback on assessments and course work. Combining video and/or audio notes to rubrics has provided much richer, more meaningful feedback to students. Jaclyn feels that talking to them about areas of improvement and overall performance is easier using the audio tools and also gives students more insight into their rubric scores. When asked if the audio/video feedback impacted their learning and performance, over 90% of students indicated it did on a recent end of course survey.
Distance does not have to mean disconnected. Students are part of the class whether they are sitting in the front row or in their living room when live video streaming is incorporated. Desire2Learn Capture technology provides the means to broadcast live and then archive for later viewing allowing students the opportunity to review it again if necessary. If Desire2Learn Capture isn't available, instructors can utilize YouTube or other resources and embed them seamlessly in the Desire2Learn Learning Environment. Students are able to attend lectures 'live' online and participate just like the face-to-face students present in the room. This technology keeps students from feeling separated from the group but allows them the flexibility to make class time work for them.
Reflection is a key aspect of higher order thinking and learning. As a key component of Dr. Broadbent's program, Reflective Health Behavior Change Journals are used as a modeling tool by instructors and a learning and assessment piece for students. Jaclyn is able to model the learning goals that students are expected to achieve, and share her portfolio with students along the way as a resource and guide to students. Students then create presentations using templates, videos, etc. and submit them as part of their assessment in the course.
Technology is changing the way learning happens but it does not have to mean that learning becomes isolated. Learning should be about making connections and collaboration both online and face-to-face. With a variety of solutions for teachers to choose from in technology, it is possible to provide efficient, effective, and even personal experiences in online courses.