April 16


One of my objectives in SLN faculty development to model and demonstrate how to facilitate an online interaction. My main goal for this is to show you the 3 key elements to a successful online interaction:

  1. build trust and establish connection.
  2. express personality and develop an online “voice” – I do not suggest that you copy me. I recommend that online instructors cultivate their own unique online voice that is authentic to who you are.
  3. let student interests drive/guide – draw from students’ interests to engage them where possible– make it relevant to them. Give them choice and voice.

It is also important to present content in an engaging way and to give students options and choices for how they present their content, interact, and provide feedback. The learning experience will be more effective and much richer for the student, if they can invest their own context/interests into it – if it has meaning, and relevancy to their immediate lives.

In designing an engaging interaction there are 3 essential ingredients: content, interaction, feedback/assessment/evaluation. To be engaging an activity must:

  1. Present content in an engaging way, i.e., audio, video, pictures, –  or something that is not expected, like having my daughter introduce me in the course.
  2. Facilitate collaboration or interaction that is engaging and relevant to the lives of the students. For example, letting students choose something they are interested in for an assignment, rather than assigning the whole class the same topic.
  3. Provide/Collect feedback in an engaging way. This might be having students conduct peer evaluations or self assessments, or it might be asking students to provide you with suggestions on how to improve an activity or course.

It is important to note that this list of ingredients applies to the students too – not just for the teachers. Their contribution to an interaction must also contain these ingredients for it to be “engaging” – interaction is 2-way.

For me, innovation and creativity are both by products and means to achieve these key elements. I see it all as a simple design problem: (A + B )X= C

With these students (A), given the options and limitations of the learning environment (B), I can do “X” to achieve the stated learning objective (C) where “X” =  some kind engaging innovation with content, interaction or feedback – and I want to be sure you know that it is not always something technical!

I really like solving the problem for X. Designing “X” is where the fun is for me – I love to be creative and come up with things. Since I personally like exploring technology for instructional purposes, my X is often a cool web tool, but I am careful about these decisions. I don’t advocate for technology just for technology’s sake. The criteria I recommend for selecting the right “tool” for the job is that it must assist you to achieve the pedagogical objective “better, faster, safer, easier, or cheaper” than some other way. Sometimes the best tool for the job is a conversation and a piece of chalk.  To engage students I look for simple surprises and things that are unexpected, real, and relevant to the real life of the students that they will be able to immediately appreciate in some way.

– alex

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