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Sunday, February 06, 2005

Bringing Together Online Instruction and Real Life: Putting Content into the Context

Perhaps the most effective instructional strategy to employ is to design activities that require the student to relate the course content to their lives. This can be as basic as having students keep journals, or to find examples of what they are studying in current news or world events. The events may be ephemeral and the concepts may be abstract. However, when you connect the two, you establish relevancy and emotional engagement.

Listen to the podcast.

If you can take it one step further and allow the student sufficient flexibility to use the content to solve real-life dilemmas, you demonstrate that you care about the well-being of your student. This is golden. Magic can happen at this point.

Avoid skill-and-drill and rote memorization activities. Also avoid over-reliance on the discussion board - an over-reliance on it as the primary method of instruction can be frustrating for students because the comments that the instructor makes are public. It is awkward, and it often appears that the instructor "plays favorites" -- even when that was not the case. Further, one can unconsciously slip into the trap of unwittingly targeting or humiliating someone.

Remember -- dehumanization does not simply mean giving over to automation and avoiding human contact. It also can mean becoming desensitized to individuality, and losing awareness of the fact that the name / face on the screen is a human being with a complex array of beliefs, circumstances, and socio-cultural influences.

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