Online learning has several promising practices that schools can use to assure that students meet the same quality standards of traditional classes. Below are five promising practices for adolescent learners.
- Rigor — This means how well students understand what they are learning. It is the depth of learning. Rigor does not necessarily mean difficult or more work. Sometimes my colleagues think that rigor means that they can academically flog students with extra work. “Let’s give them 30 math problems,” rather than the five or six that will help students understand the content they need to know. One way to ensure rigor and measure it is with the same unit assessments and end of course assessment that are used in the traditional course.
- Proctored examinations — A second way to assure course quality is with proctored exams. Faculty members or other employees proctor the important assessments. This may require the school to have a testing center or other place where students attend for help sessions. The online program then assures that the student taking the course is the student taking the exam. This is a quality check.
- Live Sessions — Using software like Wimba or Elluminate allows the instructor and the students to connect for live sessions for teachers to present and students to interact. These sessions can be recorded for later viewing by students who could not connect live. Additionally, a student can review the session again, at their own pace, stopping the recording, rewinding, and replaying as necessary. Recently, while proctoring an exam, a student reported that the recording was valuable because in a traditional class, she would have stopped the teacher’s instruction to ask a question. With a recording, she reported that she could replay the section until she was ready to move on, not interrupting the flow of the class or disrupting other students.
- Planned completion dates — Whether the student is working in a teacher-directed course or a self-paced course, the student needs a plan to complete the course, including frequent homework. In a math course, students need frequent assignments and feedback to learn the mathematics’ spiral. In my teacher directed-astronomy course, that has weekly requirements during the semester, I use a checklist. It is a pdf that students can print and track their activity completion during the week.
- Student interactions with other students — Our end of course surveys indicate that students miss the regular interaction they have in traditional courses. Online discussions, live sessions, wiki postings, and blog activities help with student interactivity.
Clearly, online practices for adolescents are different from the adult practices. In an upcoming posting, I’ll write about more promising practices.