For the past two decades, instructional designers have had access to new theories that have been developed to describe the acceptance of technology into learning. One such theory is connectivism. This theory has been praised as an” effort in the digital era to produce a relevant learning theory” (Kaufman & Mann, 2007).
Siemens (2011) contended that “information technology created a new paradigm in the traditional learning environment that necessitated a new learning theory” (Siemens, 2011). One rationale for the creation of connectivism in the digital age is most learning environments are “intertwined, technological, and social in nature” (Kaufman & Mann, 2007). Instructional designers have facilitated learners to access a wealth of information resources; for instance, “online libraries, peer-reviewed journals, and book reference services along with social media, sharing, and Web 2.0 tools” (Lemke, Coughlin, Garcia, Reifsneider, & Baas, 2009).
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In the absence of meeting your students in a face to face course, how can instructors make individualized connections with their students in the online course environment.
Introduce yourself and demonstrate to the students that you have a passion for the subject of the course. Provide a video introduction. Provide your professional biography and a picture. Encourage students to do the same in the first discussion forum.
Give students a choice. If you are an educator who truly differentiates, you will give students choices on assignments, projects, etc. Instead of authoring a paper every week, give students the choice of creating a short video, podcast, or presentation. In addition, provide choices in disseminating information. Read this article or watch this video. Providing students with choices gives them an investment in the course.
Review the instructions for assignments/discussion/assessments. Go over them and go over them, again. Ensure that all instructions are clear and with step-by-step details, if necessary. Students can get easily frustrated when instructions are not clear.
All students learn differently, and students in an online classroom are no exception. Provide students with multiple opportunities and formats for learning, including videos, audio lectures, and project choices that help engage and encourage learning for all students and preferences. Differentiated instruction promotes learning for all students, as well as encourages engagement in the online classroom.
Encourage Peer Review and Engagement. Encourage students to communicate with their peers. Peer communication allows students to develop a network of support, rather than have students only rely on the instructor. Allow students an opportunity to get to know one another in an introductory thread, and encourage students to connect throughout the course. Online learning can be lonely, but it does not have to be. Students can learn to develop a community in the online classroom.
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