Thursday, October 28, 2010

WK8: Engaging Learners with New Strategies and Tools

As an online instructor or facilitator, it is important to make use of various technological tools that are frequently use by learners.  Therefore, it is important to adopt the following technologies:  a) cell phones b) blogs, c) e-books, d) emails, and e) ipods.  For example, cell phones coupled with emails are two significant communication devices in which a learner can access and use anytime and anywhere.  Secondly, by using cells phones and emails, students will be able to attach files and pictures.  Further, other items can be sent, retrieved, uploaded, and downloaded for sharing and collaborating new learning and ideas.  E-books and ipods are two technological devices that can be used by having available notes and textbooks for courses at their fingertips.  Another advantage is that students will then be allowed the opportunity to work independently and collaboratively in order to enhance their critical thinking and reading skills, coupled with shaping how they learn.  Some advantages of a blog are: a) allow students a chance to discuss and collaborate on a specific topic, b) post relevant information regarding the subject, and c) provide positive/constructive feedback to their peers/instructor.  These tools work well in a distance education environment because most students have adopted these items, relevant to students, promotes growth; demonstrates in-depth thinking, instructors are meeting students where they are, and the possibility that students will adopt these items in the near future.  
Strategies that would engage, inspire, and empower students to move forward in collaborating are:  a) instructor mediated, b) student mediated, c) problem-based, and e) discussion boards.

The asynchronous instructor-mediated discussion strategies support student interactivity and enhance individual performance and satisfaction (Everhart 2000; Hiltz and Wellman 1997).  For example, in-depth participation can be displayed when an instructor address questions that are related to the students’ postings.  This will leave the door of knowledge open in order to encourage students to respond to the same posting.  The instructor can then focus on one main point of the student’s posting and build on it by requesting a comparative or contrast analysis and challenge the student to seek further research on that particular topic.

Student-mediated involves the use of student-moderated discussions.  The student has a choice of developing his/her topic or directed to use a suggested topic from the instructor.  For instance, the student moderator must define the expectations of the participants.  In order to be effective in executing this strategy, it is recommended that the student moderator develops a rubric as an assessment tool outlining the criteria and levels of quality (Andrade 2005, 27).  This can be posted at the beginning of the class discussion.  In my 8841 class last quarter I was selected to be the community leader.  Once we were grouped, I immediately compiled rules and procedures page, contact information page, discussion page, duties and responsibilities, etc.  An email was sent to all group members to visit the site and respond to the required information. Several emails were sent privately to inactive participants.  Further, I composed and emailed a letter to remind all members about their participation, responsibilities, and discussion postings.          

Problem-based is a strategy that engages students in learning by establishing small groups and presenting them with a scenario based on real world problems.  In using this strategy, it is important that students establish a strong rapport with each other in order that students develop strategies for supporting, sharing, and solving PBL scenarios.


Durrington, V., & Berryhill, A., & Swafford, J. (2006).  Strategies for enhancing student interactivity in an online environment.  College Teaching.  54(1), 190-193.  

Michele Baylor    


  1. Hi Michelle,
    A very extensive posting. I am curious about your 8841 experience as community leader. Did you find it took a lot of your time to get everyone participating? Do you think they became a community?

  2. Hello Michelle and Soraya,
    I found the 8841 use of wiki in our community was more of a place to post our storyboards for each of our podcasting projects, but not very collaborative. I have had other Walden courses with wikis and blogs, but am looking forward to the 8847 course this quarter where we have a synchronous, live Skype session for reviewing and critiquing our community's projects. My experience to date with wiki and collaboration has not been very collaborative. Two main reasons - 50% of the group does not post in a timely manner and we are spending most of our time working on our own input and not much on reflecting and helping other community members. Perhaps a better approach would be to brainstorm group norms and an agenda/timelines/goals/ and expectations in a chat session up front and then meet every few weeks in a chat session (Skype). Asynchronous seems to loose some of its effectiveness when collaborating in a community. Just my opinion from recent experiences with Walden courses.......

  3. Hello Rayaray and Marlene,

    In my 8841 class it was extremely difficult in the beginning. I found myself overseeing everyone's work 24/7 coupled with keeping up with my own work. We had outlined the ground rules in the beginning, but I think it was difficult for some community members because it was the first time that they had used a wiki. Thanks to Dr. Powley class that I had used it and self-taught myself. We became a strong community due to the level of experience, knowledge, and talents. For example, we had a community member working on his dissertation. He had completed almost every technological course. He contribute his experience and the use of technology. For example, I would look at what he had posted and follow his lead. Sure you still have to learn the use of technology by working with it. Sometimes it is the lack of having these tools available in your place of business or trying to find the time to use them. Now to tell you how I became the community leader was because I was the first to do anything and then my community would follow my lead. I also believe that everyone knew that being a leader takes a great deal of your time and because I had demonstrated leadership skills, everyone in the group wanted me to be the leader. As time went on two other communities were inactive. First, these commmunity members made a request to become members in my group. Once I received the emails from them, I welcome them by sending an email to my community members. My community was on top of all the other communities when it came to sharing, posting, collaborating, etc. Your thoughts on this.

  4. Michelle: An effective graphic organizer. I wanted to comment on Marlene's observation about WIKIs. I think any team exercise requires some coordination and planning before you can begin working on the actual product(s). Your suggestion to hold a sync planning meeting is a good one and should be part of the Walden requirement. I would recommend that you and others take the initiative (assuming your instructor does not provide the guidance) and start using SKYPE to hold regular team meetings.

    Good suggestion.

  5. Hi Dr. Powley,

    During my absence (Residency), I assigned an Assistant Community Leader. We use Skpye as our means of communicating on a daily basis.