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Friday, June 13, 2014

Best Online Practices for Professors and Students




Online education is a growing trend and will continue to grow as financial pressures weigh on the higher educational system and newer technology becomes available. Dr. Barr and Dr. Miller (2013) discuss the nature of online education, what makes it work, and the responsibilities of students. The study provides a stronger understanding of the framework for online education and how student learning is fostered through best practices.  Online education will continually adjust through its development process to market needs.

It is first beneficial to describe what distance learning is. According to Kearsley and Moore (2012) distance learning entails both geographic differences and interactions between students and teachers. It follows the same Socratic methods as face-to-face learning but relies on technology and virtual communication methods. Technology enhances the reciprocal nature of communication.

Online students are a little different than traditional students and have some additional skills. They are seen as more independent and technological savvy. The online learning style complements students’ independence of thought while the utilization of technology is no barrier to them. Some students use laptops, tablets, cell phones, and a variety of applications to gain their education and communicate with their classmates. 

Online classrooms and colleges are social networks and organizations would be wise to understand this concept. The learning process is fostered and strengthened when institutions encourage students to feel committed and satisfied with their experiences as well as be part of a community (Tinto, 1993). Relaying information is not enough as fostering a sense of community comes from connectedness, interdependence, socialization, and common goals (Rovai, 2002). 

Best practices are a methodology whereby those activities which are most effective are incorporated into the online classroom.  Institutions that continually seek to integrate best practices will find their learning platforms, operations, quality and outcomes become higher. The study helps highlight a few best practices in the online world.

Professor Practices: 

1.  Establish a nurturing and supportive environment that encourages learning.
2.  Communication between faculty and student.
3.   Cooperative learning activities that foster critical thinking.
4.   Provide experiential learning activities that activate different sections of the brain.
5.   Punctual feedback.
6.   High expectations.
7.   Culturally diverse classrooms.
8.   Provide catered feedback.
9.   Ensure students understand course policies and professor expectations.
10. Help students that need assistance.

Student Practices:

1. Don’t procrastinate.
2. Plan and organize work.
3. Set goals and manage time.
4. Practice strong study habits.
5. Keep up with assignments and postings.
6. Balance your other needs for rest, fitness, nutrition, and social interaction.
7. Participate in online discussions.
8. Communicate with professors.
9. Learn to type and write well.
10. Learn to take notes.

Barr, B. & Miller, S. (2013). Higher education: the online teaching and learning experience. UoP Dissertation.  EbscoHost (ED543912). 

Kearsley, G. & Moore, M. (2012). Distance education: A systems view of online learning. Wadsworth Publishing Co., Belmont, Ca.

Rovai, A. P. (2002). Building sense of community at a distance. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/79/152.

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