Actively Engaged Students

December 11, 2009

Being Proactive or Hand Holding?

We all want our students to be actively engaged in our online class but what strategies are most likely to ensure that this occurs? This issue came up at a recent faculty committee meeting and the discussion became very animated!

There were those who argued that, once the class Discussion Board was set up, the instructor should stay out of it. This line of reasoning goes like this: If the instructor is too intrusive students will not respond to each other but rather post only to get the instructor’s attention. Further, some held, if the instructor posted replies to some students but not others, some would have hurt feelings. In addition, according to this perspective, students should not be reminded of due dates and prodded if they missed an assignment – after all, these are adults and that sort of thing doesn’t happen in the “real world” where people have jobs and are expected to do them. In short – we are doing students a disservice with this sort of┬áhand-holding.

I was among those who took an opposing position. I believe that students are best served when the instructor is proactive – in the Discussion Board and throughout the course. Students understand that the instructor will not post a reply to every student’s comment and they do appreciate seeing that the instructor is actively engaged in class discussions. And in my experience students are grateful when I’ve reminded them of due dates or that they have only one more day to turn in an assignment or take a test. In my experience, instructors who are proactive online make it more likely that students will become actively involved with the course and remain that way. What do you think?