|Our Guest Post today comes from Dr. Amy Peterson, who is Senior VP of course design, development and academic research at Pearson, which publishes our OM texts.
The convenience and flexibility of the online learning environment allows learners to develop new skills and further their education, regardless of where they live. However, it can sometimes feel isolating for students and faculty.The question is: how do you build a sense of community in your online OM course? Here are 4 practical tips:
1. Integrate real-time interaction There is often limited interaction between you and your students and class members with each other. Consider how impromptu conversations outside the traditional classroom forge relationships, clarify ideas, and spark new insights. Try setting up webconferencing opportunities for class members to meet online synchronously both formally and informally.
2. Get creative with discussion boards In an online environment, you can structure your discussions so that everyone contributes, plus they’ll have more time to consider what they want to say before responding. In a larger class, you can set up smaller discussion groups of 20 so that students can get to know their fellow classmates. You can also create even smaller groups (5-7 people) for more intimate interaction.
3. Maximize engagement with non-task interaction Non-task interactions are those exchanges that are not part of the direct learning, but help create a supportive learning community. You can facilitate these types of interactions by leveraging the social networking capabilities that are available in many LMSs, such as chat and webconferencing.
4. Use multiple communication tools In addition to external social networking tools, such as Facebook, Telegram, Slack, and WhatsApp, students can meet each other in real time on Skype and Google Hangouts. Preprogrammed communication, such as introductory videos (like the ones created for the Heizer/Render/Munson text), content presentation, and email, are still important components of online learning, but student interaction can take the learning further, faster.