March 26

If you don’t want to bore your students … don’t be boring! : )

A very wise old online professor (Bill Pelz @wmpelz)  once told me that the lecture was the most efficient way to pass important concepts and theories from the professor’s notepad to the students ipad without going through either brain.

So, I am very curious… why do you think that your students fail to engage in your online discussions/interactions? Can you analyze what went wrong in the discussion activity for your students? Think about this from your students’ perspective.

What makes something boring? what makes something engaging? Can you cause someone to learn?

How might you apply the principles of andragogy to inform solutions for this situation?

I hear lots of faculty complain and tell horror stories about how impolite and distracted their students are with their devices in the classroom. You know what? i don’t buy it… I am completely against removing the internet or cell phones and other devises from any classroom. ridiculous. closed minded. reactionary. I don’t buy that the internet is worse than daydreaming, or doodling, or that it is a distraction. The internet simply IS. If you are distracted by it, then that is on you.

In the classroom or online you can’t MAKE people be polite any more than you can MAKE them learn, or make them want to learn for that matter. That you learn…what you learn …is entirely up to you – it is your responsibility.

Of course “netiquette” needs to be addressed and managed by the online instructor – its part of the role. But assuming everyone agrees on acceptable “behaviour” in the learning environment, and everyone is there -interested/willing/able/ to learn, if I am not able to engage you, then i consider it my failure, not yours. It is my job to design a learning experience in which you can engage.

The reality is that there are a lot of impolite people (students) out there and a lot of people (students) not seriously interested in doing much learning. There are also a lot of people (students) out there that are just not receptive to the possibility that they don’t already know it all – and use every opportunity to demonstrate how much they know, rather than acknowledging that one ANYONE always has something more that they can learn…there are dysfunctional people, people with political agendas, people with real life problems/tragedies and issues. (If you can’t allow for the possibility that there is something more you can learn, please drop my course.)

However, I think there are also a lot of boring professors out there who would much rather blame the internet for the lack of attention of their students, than turn a critical eye on themselves to ask “how  relevant am I to my students.?” How do I engage my students? How is what I   “teach”   relevant to the real life of my students? How relevant is a liberal arts education today to most youth? Will it get them a job? How much debt will this education incur? Are students well informed and advised well about their chosen degree programs, and the demand for jobs, or expected career paths and salaries? Will they learn things they can ever actually use in the “real world”? If I were a college student today, i would be pissed off.

If you are putting them to sleep in the classroom, how do you think that will play online? Do you want to sit there and watch talking head on video for 3 hours!?  Some faculty like to lecture. You may even be good at it.  REALLY good at it. You may exude passion, drama, enthusiasm and feel like you have captivated your audience. BUT – newsflash. it is NOT about your passion. It is about catalyzing that passion and learning in your students. So, here is a truth. If you are boring in the classroom, you will be boring online. Here is another truth. You CAN’T duplicate what you do in the classroom in an online environment (well you can try – but, it will not go well).  I get it. You are used to doing things the way they always have done…perhaps you use the same textbook, same lecture notes, same MC tests, same jokes, …etc. It is too much work to rethink how to present content, how to facilitate interaction and collaboration between your students, with you and with the content, and it is WAY too hard to come up with authentic ways of evaluating and assessing student learning. Nevertheless, if you want to be good online, – effective, successful, efficient – you will have to rethink how you achieve your learning objectives given the options and limitations of the online teaching and learning environment.

I think there is a HUGE disconnect with how things in higher education have always been, and how they need to change today to be relevant.

Students don’t want to be entertained, they want to be engaged… They need to experience flow. They need to be perplexed.

Here are 50 ways 2leave ur lecture:

Here is how i engage my online students:

Join the conversation and share what you know, here:

This article was republished here: on March 31, 2013 under a different title – If online students aren’t engaged, blame their teacher.