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Distance Ed Class Reflections

Post your reflections from the distance ed class of 3/19 here at the end of class. As a reminder, here are the following 4 prompts you can reflect upon. Although you only need to reflect on 1, if the mood strikes you, I encourage you to post further reflections in your OWN blogs.

  1. One of the criticisms levied against distance ed courses is the difficulty teachers face in establishing a sense of community among remotely located participants. What strategies might an instructor employ to foster a sense of community?

  2. “Think of a class you have taught or are currently teaching. If you were to move 50% to 100% of the class time to an online format, what would the change require or involved? How would it require you, as a teacher, to change or adapt?” (Sánchez-Serrano’s, 2008, p. 173)

  3. According to Nancy, one of the Spanish language distance education teachers surveyed by Sánchez-Serrano’s (2008), “the online curriculum should be designed to match, as closely as possible, the needs of the environment and of the students, while not attempting to imitate its face-to-face counterparts as the perfect model” (p. 157).How should a curriculum for online language instruction differ from a curriculum for face-to-face language instruction?

  4. Reflecting on the group project you just completed, what are some of the greatest challenges instructors would face in attempting to set up an international telecollaboration in a face-to-face language class?


Mar. 20th, 2009 12:37 am (UTC)
Re:Distance Education
Distance education programs, as learning communities need to build that sense of community within their programs to enhance student retention. The importance of building community should be clear to the distance education administrator who wishes to not only provide a satisfying learning experience for students, but who also wishes to retain them in the program. I think one strategy to foster a sense of community in the classroom is to encourage a meaningful discussion within the classroom.

There is always some transactional distance between students and their instructors, even in traditional education programs, and it is influenced by personalities and even the course content, but when there is a physical separation between students and instructors, this gap can inhibit the development of meaningful dialogue in the classroom, unless instructors take steps to overcome this.
The first very important step that a teacher can do is to make initial contacts with students and invite them to introduce themselves to others in the classroom. This helps to “break the ice” and begin conversation within the class. Creating welcome pages, videos, and adding other personal touches creates an inviting atmosphere that helps students to become comfortable in the course, with the instructor and with each other. Orientation to WebCT or other technologies in the course can also be helpful in encouraging students to get involved and become familiar with the tools necessary for success in the course.

Another step that teachers can take is to ensure that adequate dialogue is encouraged is to provide guidance through dialogue with learners and to provide course structure that is open enough to allow individual interactions among the students. Rigid course structures that allow little interaction between students and instructors increase the amount of transactional distance.
I also think that instructors should use feedback that encourages learner involvement. Strategies such as addressing learners by name can help engage them.

Providing discussion boards, opportunities for classmates to review one another’s assignments, and opportunities for chat sessions also help students to build community. Encouraging “personal talk” as well as academic discourse is important for the integration of social needs and academic requirements. In my opinion trust is a key component in the building of community; students must be able to trust the classroom site, or they will not use it to its potential.

Mar. 30th, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Distance Education
Alina, I like your suggestion regarding inviting students to create welcome pages, videos and other materials to break the ice. In the few distance education scenarios I've worked in, I've found just sharing photos of the other people one is interacting with can go a long way. I think you're really on to something with video because it can capture more than a static image of someone.


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