Building your learning community in an online teaching/learning context is just as important as with face to face or blended modes. And it can be done in various ways - particularly using multi-modal communication modes like audio, video and other multimedia.
This semester I am co-teaching an Assessment and Evaluation unit at the Grad Cert level with my colleague P.Roberts. Some of the strategies we are currently employing include:
- Photo introductions. Instead of simple textual introductions, we focus on a theme e.g. our favourite thinking space, and take a photo of that space and write about why it's our favourite space. We do this first to model what we expect students to do. Around that we ask for other information that be used to tailer the delivery later on - such as what we expect from the unit. You could use any theme for this activity, such as a picture of architecture that has impact on you, or whatever. This strategy is carried over from last year when I co-taught with Dr McCormack and it's fun when people choose their own topic for the photo. We use the Moodle Database tool for this.
- Personalised video introductions of the teaching staff. In addition to the socialisation strategy used above both my colleague and I create short 5 minute videos that introduce us in the context of the unit. These help students put a name to face, and video enhances your presence for people who otherwise never meet you. Instead of an office - you might prefer to use an outdoors location on campus with other students in the background, giving the viewer a better sense of where you are. Youtube is used to achieve cross platform and band-width efficient access to the videos.
- Assessment examples. In this unit assessment items are highly individualised, the examples provide an example of, for example, what the e-Portfolio assessment item might look like. This is especially important because e-Portfolios can mean many different things to different people and we have a particular purpose in this unit so examples are important.
- Teaching site video walkthrough. This 20 minute video, again uploaded to youtube so that everyone can access it, points out to students the major student support and learning activity features of the site. The video also highlights the topic structure, convener contact details, e-reserve links, how content is organised, etc.
- Weekly focus. Each week a statement is posted indicating a) we have begun a new topic and b) what the key focus is. This reinforces the notes of the topic and helps keep everyone moving through the unit as a learning community.
- Polls are also used where needed to gauge students existing practice, attitudes, experiences, understanding, etc.