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April 5, 2013 by Weaver
Recently I completed a course in my graduate program entitled “Facilitating Online Learning Communities.” It’s been a rewarding and practical class. In this post, I will summarize a few of the key concepts and skills. I will also include 30+ helpful web links.
Although many “best practices” of traditional classroom instruction apply to online teaching, there are unique professional qualities needed for quality online teaching. Continual professional development is essential in order to be a successful online teacher.
COMMUNICATION & ONLINE FACILITATION
- Use “FeedForward” more than feedback.
- Create learning environments in which students are asked to control their own learning and in which they actively participate in social learning – benefiting from colleague’s experiences, insights, and viewpoints.
- Set a warm, positive, inclusive tone. It’s always a good idea to evaluate your comments by asking these three questions before posting: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?
- Explicitly teach netiquette.
- Use positive phrasing. Example – instead of “Don’t post things with so many typos” say “Use spell-check carefully before submitting your post.”
- Use need/benefit statements. Example – “Posting early in the week will allow others to read and respond to your post.”
- Use supporting statements: 1) Listen to the opinion; 2) Acknowledge the opinion through a statement indicating you hear and respect the other person’s point of view; 3) Introduce additional information representing your opinion about the facts.
- Use empathy statements: 1) Offer a Minimal Encourager (e.g. “Oh My!” or “Wow!”); 2) Use an Identification Phrase (“That must be …” or “It’s hard to …”); 3) Use an Emotion Word (describe the feeling you perceive they have); 4) End by including a detail about their situation that shows you are paying attention. Example: Wow! It can be overwhelming when a computer problem takes hours to resolve.
- Use approval statements (ABC): Use adjectives to describe Attributes or Behaviors the person values and Cite specific examples. Example: John, your post about multiple intelligences was clear and concise and you included three vivid examples with each point. (There is no I in approval. Avoid using “I” in approval statements. Also avoid following an approval with a “but” or “however.” The approval will get lost in the critique. Try to separate approval and critique by at least a sentence.)
- Practice neutral correction: 1) Correct in private; 2) Focus on content; 3) Avoid starting with “You”; 4) Presume innocence; 5) Add “I” statements.
- Challenges beat cheerleading.
BUILDING COMMUNITY ONLINE
- Use online community building strategies such as welcome emails, introductions, procedures, calendars, break room starters, forums, small groups, virtual teams, wiki groups (also see 10 best practices – wikis and wikis/collaboration), chats, etc.
- Learn to diagnose discussions and identify the various roles students may play in online communication (e.g. noisy participant, quiet participant, disruptive participant).
- Use blogs as social learning tools.
- Wrap blogs and other forms of student communication: 1) Synthesize information; 2) Signal the end of the conversation so students can move on.
- A wrap-up post is a quick landscape of the key points. A weave post summarizes and synthesizes, but also creates new meaning from the material.
- Plan learning experiences that are accessible to a variety of learning styles (kinesthetic, tactual, auditory, and visual).
- Plan online activities and assessments that appeal to multiple intelligences (also click here, here, here, and here).
- Facilitate with multi-cultural awareness, sensitivity, and communication skills.
- Create an online environment that is inclusive and sensitive to diversity (also click here). “Assume good faith.”
- Use effective online conflict resolution strategies, recognize various conflict resolution styles, and learn how to initiate conflict resolution. Use verbal skills to address conflict. Use approval statements when resistance seems to be based on ego or pride. Use empathy statements when resistance seems to be based on emotion. Use supporting statements when resistance seems to be based on intellect.
- Use effective online time management techniques.