Shifting online, what key elements would make a difference?

There is enough truth in saying that students feel both alienated and demotivated in online instruction more than they do in a brick-and-mortar setting. Most of them find it way daunting to socialize and engage in online learning trajectories as they lack online experience and are, first and foremost, psychologically and logistically unprepared to embark on such journey.

In connection therewith, a myriad of frameworks have been set forth by experts in education to get past the issue of alienation and demotivation.
“Community of Inquiry” (aka COI) , which was first introduced by C.S.Peirce and John Dewey and then developed by Randy Garrison, Terry Anderson and Walter Archer, is a well classified framework that aims at aiding teachers, whether it be novice or seasoned, in their efforts to design and deliver their online courses. Among the most compelling ideas they put emphasis on is “humanizing online teaching and learning” i.e., developing the interpersonal or social presence of both teachers and students in online environments. For that matter, the framework suggests actionable ideas to get students to interact with their teachers as well as each other. For instance, the framework provides teachers with practical tips as to how they can make use of Learning Management Systems (aka LMSs), such as Google Classroom, Schoology and the like, in addition to the so called Synchronous Learning Management Systems (aka SLMS) in hopes of fostering relationships among learners and better build community cohesion.

However, creating an atmosphere in which learners socially interact in an online environment doesn’t, withal, guarantee success unless it is accompanied with a teaching and learning method that is dynamic and student centric. Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that a multitude of teachers think of online teaching as no more than using a variety of online tools and technologies to impart knowledge in ways that neither trigger higher order thinking nor get students to be active and motivated. To speak to this issue, very many frameworks of Course Design have been put in use, among which “Understanding by Design” is thought to be prominent. UbD, as Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe assume, enables teachers to accurately design their courses and have their learners intentionally engage in the learning process following what is commonly referred to “Backward Design”. As its name suggests, “Backward Design” is a process used by faculty members and begins with setting objectives that students are expected to learn and be able to do, then developing suitable assessment tools to gauge students’ progress, and finally crafting  instructional activities and tasks on which learners work to attain the desired outcomes.

Ultimately, online instruction is indeed making a plethora of teachers feel behind, under pressure, and more importantly confused as to whether they should continue or quit. Still, they all are able to morph this feeling of inferiority into confidence and pride if, and only if, they change the way they approach teaching online – if, and only if, they think of online instruction as not being an option but rather a necessity.

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