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Thursday, November 25, 2010

5 Ways to Engage Your Students in Distance Learning

Distance learning is a great opportunity for many students who lead busy lives. It can allow for the busy mom, or the full-time corporate executive to obtain a degree on a schedule that is flexible for them. Many online education advocates claim that distance learning can take twice the effort as the traditional classroom setting. There are many factors in distance learning that require continuous engagement from the student. These are factors such as writing discussion forum posts, participating in lab assignments online, and viewing video lectures from professors. In the traditional classroom participation is not "required", however, in the online classroom it is a major requirement.

Many professors in distance learning programs constantly challenge themselves to keep students engaged in the discussion forum part of class. If students are presented with 5 questions during a course week, there will absolutely come a time when students have totally exhausted every aspect of each question.

How can professors keep students engaged in the distance learning process using discussion boards?

Here are a few ideas:

1. Create a discussion question bank. Discussion questions can become depleted when you have 20 students posting on average 3 times per day 7 days per week. It is helpful to develop a discussion question bank that can be used to generate ideas for student discussion topics. This can be done in as a Microsoft Word or Excel document, or even written in a notebook! The idea is to generate as many questions as possible that is relatable to the text and lecture notes. It is important to challenge students to think critically which means asking questions that require analysis.

2. Resource sharing. Many times students will answer questions based on the text and without venturing out to find other resources on the topic. This tip suggests that instructors can challenge students to access resources online, or in texts that will support their thoughts on particular topic. Students can provide and exchange sources which promotes "information sharing".

3. Discuss "real world" examples. Instructors can begin by posting a case study of a real world example. The instructor can challenge students to think of scenarios that they have encountered that mirrors the objectives of the week. Each student will have a diverse background, and the class can benefit from the work experience of each student. If the student has not had a scenario in the "real world" to relate to, challenge them to find someone who has! This is a great way to help students to relate to the different examples of the text.

4. Interact with the class. Professors should always engage in discussion with students! This helps the students to build respect and appreciate the expertise of the instructor. In an effort to build this kind of relationship, the instructor should be willing to share background information, examples encountered in their career, as well as expand on examples that may apply to the text.

5. Take Suggestions. Many times, students have a plethora of ideas, questions, and expectations for a course. You can help the students to stay engaged and exceed their class expectations by taking suggestions for topics that are related to the weekly objectives. Many times students may have "side" conversations on the discussion board that are directly related to the course objectives. Make a topic of those conversations! Begin to expand on what the students are considering and analyzing. This will keep the students engaged and allow them to appreciate your attention to detail.

Nicole Hickland Harris is a professor teaching several courses in the area of information technology. Nicole also runs her blog full time

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Distance Education Is Changing The Shape Of Our Education System

Distance education is a medium of education in which the tutors and the students are located geographically apart. There are many motivations for creating a distance education program. First and foremost is the credibility and stature of the faculty available locally. This is the bottomline reason for creating such a program. If a student or a group of students increasingly feel that the intelligentsia available in their country or region does not satisfy their benchmarks for quality education, then, they start looking for a finer, exceptional and acceptable faculty outside their own living place without leaving their own geographical region physically. This has the added benefit of a low cost as compared to moving out physically to acquire education. Such a system is increasingly being aided by modern era technologies which enable constant communication between the teaching parties and the candidates being taught.

The pioneer of this kind of education system was the University of London, which started its External Degree Programs in 1858, now known as the University of London International Programs. In this program, students register for a course of their choice and are sent the guides or course outline to be followed every year as long as they enroll for a course. The candidates are then tested for their competence once a year with examinations being conducted by the British Council.

Since technology is extensively being used for distance learning, this concept is now taking a new turn: E-Learning. In this mode, students take their lectures online via multimedia devices and submit their assignments accordingly.

There are two types of technologies being used for distance learning. One is known as synchronous and the other, asynchronous. In synchronous technology, the presence of all participants during the learning session is mandatory. An example would be video conferencing. On the other hand, in asynchronous technology, the presence of all participants at the same time is not required. Examples would be email, audiocassette and message board forums.

Distance education is sprouting due to the extensive availability of technology and the demand for low-cost, high-quality education.

Even if you are a college graduate, you can still improve yourself by distance learning in many areas including business, finance and so on.