Diane Carter is a Senior Instructor in Psychology and Communication Studies at University of Idaho
As a Cengage Faculty Partners, I have been talking with faculty across the country about the same question: “How can I best translate the rich peer to peer learning experiences that have been a hallmark in my face-to–face classrooms into dynamic online activities?
It is true. While studies show that online and face-toface classes work equally well, not all online classes are equal. Different subject matter requires different approaches, and different tools. Different student populations have different levels of access to different types of technology. And while researchers studying online education have long argued that student-to-student and student-to-instructor interaction is a crucial component in online learning, it can be difficult to facilitate that interaction. Asynchronous written posts are another option. However, they don’t feel interactive due to the time lag between replies and posts. What should an instructor do?
Brian Smetkowski, Director of Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and Service Learning, University of Idaho, suggests that you start by reviewing your course goals and learning targets. Once you have identified your goals you can create a grid that will allow you to identify what you do in the classroom in order to achieve them. (See the example below.) You can then brainstorm other activities that are more appropriate for the online environment, and possible methods to put them into action.
Leveraging Digital for Peer Reviews and Practice
You don’t have to limit yourself, especially with all the educational tools available. Bongo, which is included in every MindTap course, is a tool I love for online interaction. Bongo is more than just a video capture tool. It allows instructors to use interactive activities created by Cengage or create their own interactive assignments.
Bongo has been a part of my face-to-face speech classes for years to encourage students to practice their speeches. I tried to add a peer review component to my practice speech assignment a few years back after being frustrated by the requirement that students provide peer reviews for student speeches. Each student was required to review a classmate’s speech, and to provide targeted feedback to help the classmate prepare for speech day. After customizing a grading rubric to guide students through the peer review process–voila!–student speeches improved. We achieved two distinct but interrelated goals. Students were practicing more effectively, which reduced anxiety and improved performance on speech day. The peer review process was also more meaningful.
Opportunities for Collaboration
Instructors can also use Bongo to incorporate group work into their online classes. Students can be placed in groups (I recommend groups with five students) where they record and record their group meetings, create documents and submit supporting material for grading. A rubric can be used to assess group work so that everyone is aware of what is expected.
Last semester, I added a group component in a class by placing students in groups and requiring them all to meet in Bongo to create a panel discussion that would be delivered synchronously the following week. The majority of the groups met more often than was required, and the final panel discussions were rich in thought and insight.
Again, I achieved more than one goal. Students learned how to participate in group meetings and give high-quality presentations. They also enjoyed the chance to work together on a meaningful project. Because I made it clear that I would be reviewing the group interactions to evaluate each student’s individual contributions to the project I didn’t encounter any of the usual complaints about group work, namely that some students coast and others do a lot more.
Other methods to encourage peer-to-peer interaction
Bongo is only one tool that can be used for interaction enhancement. Here are some more ideas:
To increase your perceived presence, record short YouTube videos and insert them into your MindTap textbook readings
Google Docs allows students to collaborate to create and edit documents.
In a Google Doc, insert links to online apps such as Padlet and ask students to add video, memes and other online content to create class blog, Wikis or other shared content.
Start by setting your goals and then brainstorming ways that tools like Bongo can help you achieve them.