IDT 846 - Reading Map #4: The Student and Distance Education
IDT 846 - Reading Map #4: The Student and Distance Education
Describe the responsibilities of the student and Explain the responsibilities of the instructor for ensuring student participation.
a. Differences in Settings
Online: Although most students are very familiar with email and the Internet, they may need help learning instructional technologies and how to use discussion board and uploading compatible documents. The syllabus can address these topics. Students need to know that it is their responsibility to contact the instructor with issues or questions. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.196)
I have a collection of resources, email templates and videos to send students to address each of these issues quickly. We tend to get the same questions over and over so I can just copy, paste and send my response.
Video and Audio: Students need to learn to use video and audio for discussions, assignments and communications with classmates and instructor. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.196)
b. Time for Class
Synchronous: Students must be in class at a certain time. This can pose problems for the student in need of greater flexibility. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.197)
Our synchronous sessions are optional because of this very reason. We do record so that students can view when it is convenient for them.
Asynchronous: Students will work in class at different times. Expectations for participation must be very clear. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.197)
Connecting with the Instructor: Communication methods need to be clear. The instructor should let students know the best way to contact them and specify appropriate hours for phone calls and response times. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.198)
This is one of the most important responsibilities of the student. In my experience, students struggle with asking for help. They are often unsure of how to ask the right question or even just afraid of reaching out. With young learners, I'm afraid they don't realize I'm human so I try my best to send videos, include lots of positivity and encouragement and show my face.
d. Class Participation
Synchronous: Classes should be recorded for students that cannot attend. A best practice for discussin includes asking question(s) before class so students have a chance to think before they are prompted to respond in class. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.199)
Asynchronous; Guidelines and expectations for discussions need to be clear. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.199)
Assignment Completion: It is the students' responsibility to complete assignments. The instructor must provide a detailed syllabus and should remind students of upcoming assignments. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.199)
When my students fall behind I often blame myself but have to step back and remember that the expectations and all of the resources were clear and available. I do try my best to help re-direct, motivate and encourage students to get back on track.
Addressing the Grading Issue: Instructor should provide due dates, grading system, rubrics, etc. so that students know exactly how they will earn their grade. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.199)
f. Assuming Responsibility for Own Learning:
g. Equipment Requirements and Use
Technology Requirements and Use: Students need to have all of the required equipment, know how to use it and be prepared to troubleshoot issues. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.200)
Identify the characteristics of the distant education student.
Adults bring past experiences from life and their profession which must be considered when planning instruction. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.190)
Important to remember. In our class, there are a students of all ages with backgrounds in the military, medicine, education and business.
Two types of adult learners to be considered: "blue-collar" and "white-collar". It can be more difficult for blue-collar workers to access distance education courses due to "work schedules and limited access to resources". (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.190)
Adult men and women report similar reasons for enrolling in distance education courses. Women are more likely to report that family responsibilities, in addition to work and flexibility, draw them to distance education. Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.190)
"Most adult learners are 'self-starters' and require little to get them interested in the course of study". Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.190)
I believe this. Adult learners are investing a lot of time and money into a course by choice. They have a very specific goal in mind and will do what is necessary to achieve that goal.
"Young learners are not necessarily involved in a distant class by choice. They are often seeking a particular course of study, but do not have ready access to a face-to-face class". (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.191)
I could write a 10 page paper about this point. I have worked in K-12 distance education for 6 years and worked in a brick and mortar classroom before that. At the traditional high school I used to work in, we had a credit recovery lab where students could take courses online to recover credit. There were a few motivated students but most hated the online classes and drudged through them slowly. In my new role as an online instructor at the K-12 level, I have met students that are home-schooling due to bullying, credit recovery necessities, moving midyear, health issues and more. Often times it is the parents that move the student to the online school and some kids don't want to move. As the teacher of these students, it is especially difficult to engage and motivate them because they don't want to be there in the first place.
Young learners are a more diverse group than adult learners. They are typically knowledgeable about the technology being used and require more engaging material. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.191)
I absolutely agree with this. As a Spanish teacher, I offer synchronous sessions on grammar, vocabulary, stories and culture. Although my MS and HS students desperately need practice with grammar, they much prefer to attend sessions on tongue twisters, stories and holiday themes. I will typically have only 2-3 students in my grammar sessions. I do record all sessions so students can view as needed.
Access to resources is vital for the success of the K-12 learner and can pose challenges when not conisdered. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.191)
At the K-12 online school I worked for in AZ, there were learning centers located throughout the state. Students would come to the center which had on-site teachers/monitors to help students with troubleshooting. Most importantly, these centers provided students with the tools they needed to take courses online.
Discuss the factors that ensure student success
a. Classroom Culture at a Distance: "learning communities" are essential. "Without establishing a community of learners in a distance setting, the potential for instructional success is limited". The responsibility for creating this environment belongs to both students and the teacher (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.191)
We have student starting each week throughout the year in cohort format. These students fall into the "August cohort" or the "September cohort". In my synchronous sessions I invite all cohorts so in can be very difficult to create the community of learners since the students are often in different levels of Spanish and in different cohorts. I do tend to get the same students in my live sessions so we are able to build a good relationship and students get to know each other.
b. Etiquette: Setting clear expectations is essential. Speaking with students one-on-one to address appropriate language and expectations may be necessary. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.192)
In my course orientation I explain ways to contact me and the best way to send an email. At the beginning of each synchronous course I review the expectations for the session.
Learning Experiences: Knowing about students' backgrounds and learning experiences can help the instructor design and prepare assignments for the course. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.193)
My intro surveys help me get to know students so I can take their background into account when working with them throughout the year.
Distance Learning Experiences: Having prior experience in distance education is reported to give students more confidence in distance education.
Most of the K-12 families I work with each year are new to online learning. Being prepared with helpful videos and course orientations goes a long way.
General Ability: In distance education courses "successful students tend to be capable of initiating their own work and seem to assume more responsibility for their own learning earlier in the process than do those students who are enrolled in traditional classes". (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.194)
The role of the parent becomes very important for most of my students. When the parent is not very involved, some of my students do very poorly in the online environment.
Prior Knowledge: It is important to be aware of students' prior knowledge. This will allow teacher to prepare effective instruction. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.194)
I include a brief assignment on the second day of each course asking the students to share their prior experience in Spanish. Many of my students grew up speaking Spanish at home or are currently living in a Spanish-speaking country. By knowing a student's experience with Spanish I can more accurately give feedback and grade assignments.
Learning Styles: Designing instruction to meet a variety of learning styles is important. Instructors can use surveys or reflection assignments to get to know their students better. (Simonson, Smaldino, & Zvacek, 2015, p.195)
I use surveys at the beginning of each new course. This gives students the opportunity to introduce themselves. This year I added the question: "Is there anything you would like me to know about you that would allow me to better help you this year/" I have gotten some really helpful responses. One student let me know he was legally deaf which is very important for me to know when I'm grading his assignments based on pronunciation. Others will let me know their preferred learning style or work habits.
Simonson, M. R., Smaldino, S. E., & Zvacek, S. (2015). Teaching and learning at a distance: foundations of distance education. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.