Yesterday I wrote about some of the personal experiences I have had in working with online teachers regarding “best practices” that were developed as a result of students not being successful in online courses. There are a number of research studies that have appeared in a variety of publications discussing best practices as well. It is important to realize that all of the “best practices” listed here focus on online teaching. However, all of these best practices can also be utilized in blended learning teaching as well. In addition, even though the studies below may be for college or for adult learners, effective online teaching practices work equally well at every level of teaching.
Overall, establishing an engaging and interactive online course environment is important. Garrison, Anderson, & Archer (2001) have identified the Community of Inquiry model which involves social presence (ability to connect with learners), cognitive presence (process of constructing meaning with the subject), and teaching presence (design, facilitation and direction towards educational learning outcomes). Everything a teacher does in an online course can fit in one of these broad categories whether in K-12 or in higher education or for adults.
Regarding the use of online discussion boards, a brief overview of effective online discussion boards with citations was written by Hannon (2008) at Latrobe University. Based on his research, he says that the purpose of discussion boards should be to engage students in approaches to deep learning, achieve a high level of effective student participation and be sustainable and workload friendly. Furthermore, designing a discussion board should be group centered and promotes a collaborative model of instruction. He also shares several tips in designing effective online discussion boards and the first tip is to define the overall purpose.
Akin and Neal (2007) in the article, “CREST+ Model: Writing effective online discussion questions” explain the steps in asking the right questions. “The CREST+ model covers the cognitive nature of the question [C], the reading basis [R], any experiential [E] possibility, style and type of question [ST] , and finally ways to structure a good question [+].”
Lowes, Lin and Yang (2007) in the article “Studying the effectiveness of the discussion forum in online professional development courses” have done considerable research regarding the strategies that enhance an online discussion board conversation – teacher to student and student to student. They looked at the nature of online interactions. They refined the teacher role in an online discussion and characterized these roles as cheerleading/affirming (offering praise and encouragement), new information (introduce new ideas or information) and questioning/challenging (raise questions that expand on previous posts).
These are but a few of the best practices that have emerged in the utilization of teaching online with online discussion boards.