When an online learning community develops, it supports students’ ability to figure things out for themselves. Doing this can increase participation of students, bring in more diversity, break barriers for contributions, and encourage more ownership of learning. Faculty save time when students are empowered to take responsibility for their learning. Thinking about the options for interaction and building that community early in the design process will help for a smoother course development.
How to Plan Student Organization in Online Learning
In the course design process, take time to consider how those important connections among students and between you and students will take place. If necessary, refer to the ideas in this article on Interactivity In Online Learning. Some activities may require use of additional technology or even just different functions and settings within the learning management system (LMS). Remember that these are merely tools to carry out an activity, and introducing too many new tools can be a distraction to learning. In addition, there are different factors to consider for groups and for individual assignments. Try these steps to approach this part of course design:
Ask yourself the following:
What structures or activities will be used? For example, discussion boards, synchronous meetings, study groups, collaborative writing assignments, group projects or presentations, peer reviews, etc.
Will students carry out the tasks in groups? If so, how many groups? How many students will be in each group? Will students form their own groups or be assigned?
What technologies are needed to complete the tasks involved in the activity? For example, group function, whole class discussions, Zoom, Flip, Google Docs, wiki, blog, etc.
List the activities, purpose and desired outcome for the activity, and the tools needed to complete related tasks.
Review the list, asking:
Is there enough variety of engagement?
Are there too many tools that could distract from learning?
Are the methods accessible?
Do the methods encourage inclusivity?
Make changes and adjustments to achieve the desired balance for your course.
Example Student Organization Plan
Activity & Purpose
Individual, Group, or Whole Class
Tools or Technology Needs
Weekly Quizzes on Readings and Multimedia learning materials - reinforce concepts, check for understanding
Quizzes: unlimited attempts
Reflection journals - identify aspects of the personal learning experience
Google Docs: instructions in settings to limit access to anyone except writer and instructor.
Final Project - Create project demonstrating mastery of Course Learning Outcome 3
Groups, 4 members
Groups for optional workspace (can use their own tools if agreed on by whole group) - Activity discussion forum, wiki, and file sharing
Weekly Discussions - reinforce concepts
Writing assignments (3 papers) - assessment/practice of skills
Peer evaluation of drafts (writing assignments)
Pairs (change w/ each assignment) but carried out with whole-class access