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On-line Learning Focus Groups

On-line Learning Focus Groups

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On-line Learning Focus Groups

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  1. On-line Learning Focus Groups • 497 currently enrolled Hope students have taken on-line courses at Hope • Focus groups included 16 students: distribution of majors across NS, SS, AH • Focus group participants had taken a total of 20 courses online at Hope (courses taken were in NS and AH, none in SS) • All online courses were taken to meet a requirement

  2. Why do students take on-line courses? Participants reported reasons that are equally valid for all summer course offerings. The only unique factor was the ability to be off-campus and to schedule coursework around summer jobs. • Scheduling & Flexibility: • Complete degree in 4 years • Condensed time commitment (4 weeks instead of 16) • Focus: • Take one course at a time • Increased focus may increase GPA • Gen Ed Courses: • Difficulty prioritizing Gen Ed during academic year due to demands of major • Difficulty scheduling Gen Ed during academic year due to constraints of major

  3. On-line Learning • What Kind of Course Works Best? • Non-major • General Education • Discrete content: Read-Write-Take Test • Writing courses: Have time to develop inspiration and think about assignments and feedback • What Kind of Student Learner Does Best? • Self-motivated, self-educating, self-disciplined • Visual Learners* and Kinetic Learners report more difficulty learning on-line * This seems to reflect lack of full-use of visual technology in many online courses; visual learners also seek immediacy in learning environment (seeing professor, watching professor or other students)

  4. Valued Learning Experiences Reported by Participants • COMMUNITY of LEARNERS • PROFESSOR-STUDENT INTERACTION • DEEP LEARNING AND ENGAGED LEARNING • DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES [prompted by focus group facilitator, not generated by participants] • PROFESSORS’ EXPLANATIONS & FEEDBACK • CAMPUS Ways in Which Valued Learning Experiences Were Compromised for Some in On-Line Courses • Isolating • No feedback from peers • No interdisciplinary discussion • Miss exchange of ideas • Miss verbal expression of ideas • Want to know professor (personally) • Want to be known by professors (personally) • Reported working more in courses when they know professor and professor knows them • More difficult to retain knowledge • Little or no analytical learning • No reports of collaborative learning • Little interaction among peers – no presentations, discussions, or collaborative projects • No attention to diversity or even alternative perspectives to course content reported by participants even after prompting with examples of broad interpretation of alternative perspectives to theories or ways of thinking] • Some report lack of ability to ask questions of professors • Miss seeing and hearing professors’ explanations • Some report lack of feedback from professors • Accessibility of Resources: software, equipment, library resources, multicultural community, theatre/arts presentations necessary for coursework may not be available at ‘camp in the woods’ or small hometown

  5. Participants’ Suggestions to Improve On-Line Learning at Hope 1. Make it Personal • Meet classmates prior to course • Meet professor in person prior to course: Email & chat interaction can feel awkward if don’t have relationship • Share personal stories and experiences 2. Make it Visual • Video lecture playback: Slide and audio lectures difficult to stay focused • Video chat instead of text chat or posting - Utilize Skype and webcams • Utilize online video content (YouTube), animation and images

  6. 3. Make it Interactive • Provide synchronous classes so can see and interact with peers and professor • Let us see and hear peers’ questions • Use video conferencing to create a real exchange of ideas (as opposed to on-line posts which are discrete statements and don’t encourage utilizing others to construct new knowledge and understandings) 4. Utilize Technology Wisely • Over-reliance on PowerPoint presentations is not conducive to focused attention or learning • Moodle discussion forums are tedious and content of postings is of low quality • Trying to engage us via Facebook and Twitter means we can never escape from class • Glitches in delivery of audio or visual content is frustrating

  7. Conclusions • Good teaching is good teaching. It can occur on-line or face-to-face. • Many suggestions for making on-line learning more effective would also apply to traditional courses. • Students value the personal on-campus learning communities that contribute to deep learning at Hope College • There are specific and relatively easy things we can do to improve on-line courses by ‘blending’ the personal with the technology. • Students were satisfied with their online courses and were grateful for the availability of summer online courses at Hope.