Not sure about adding a place for learners to connect in an online course? What about a forum or a shared space? If you think that the best way to learn is by reading or watching material and then repeating the knowledge or doing a quiz, well, it’s time you experienced connecting as a way to learn.
The importance of places to connect in an online course
Being online allows people from different places to learn together and share information and experiences. Being able to connect in an online course with others who have different ideas and backgrounds in order to support and guide each other is one of the best things about being globally connected through the world wide web. Let’s face it, sometimes we have similar ideas to people at a similar time and sometimes we are inspired and guided by others. The best thing to do is connect and support each other. You don’t know what you might learn from someone and you don’t know the amount that you can actually help someone else.
Online communities with common expectations and goals can give people a shared sense of trust and support. These same communities also give a space for people to continue a professional connection. Learners might work on projects together that they apply in the real world. Connections through study can turn out to be the support system needed when working in the real world.
Forums or discussion boards can be places to help with definitions, ideas and explanations. This can spark off ideas for other learners and help provide a research tool.
These discussions can also be used for assessment. How many times has a learner contributed or given feedback to someone else. The quality of the feedback can also be assessed.
How to connect learners other than in a forum
It’s up to the online technologies used to enable learning and there are a lot of new technologies. Here’s a few suggestions.
Instead of a field trip an online course can offer a virtual tour of an institution with the chance to discuss the tour with others doing the course. A lot of public institutions already offer these. The virtual tour can connect with professionals in the form of a webinar or a joint project connected with the virtual tour.
Social bookmarking gives learners the ability to share what they are reading with others (think Delicious). Apps such as Ponder allow people to highlight sections of an article then share and question this section in a group page for others to comment.
Not everyone has a blog or is immediately comfortable blogging so why not start a private Facebook page where people can write small or larger amounts. Learners can link to sources or their own work and share photos.
This is just scratching the surface. Be creative with your course. Forget about the video, text and quiz format. Have a bit of fun and play with different ways to connect.