I have always integrated technology into my teaching (every art historian, heck, without color slides there would be no art history!). However, this I offered my students an opportunity to create a blog as part of my online Art Appreciation class.
Web 2.0 technologies are begging educators to integrate them into their teaching, just as students are begging teachers to do the same. Many of our students are already using technologies like blogs and wikis in their daily lives so why not integrate them into class projects? Isn't it every teacher's dream to have students who are excited to complete their coursework? As I see it, using technology makes this a reality.
I posted earlier about my integration of blogs into my online Art Appreciation class. Many of my students have responded positively when asked if the blog has supported their learning, despite the fact that this was the first blogging experience for 89% of them. One student even told me, "It makes me want to do my work." Ah, music to my ears! This week, which marks the last week of our fall semester, I conducted a survey of my students and here is what they told me. 89% of my class indicated that the blog project "enhanced" their learning. 78% of students said it increased their "sense of community" in the class. 100% of students responded "strongly agree" or "somewhat agree" when asked if the blog "exposed them to different perspectives." When asked if the blog project "required critical thinking," 100% of students replied with either "strongly agree" or "somewhat agree."
So, let's summarize these findings. It appears that all of my students identify the blog project as requiring critical thinking and exposing them to new perspectives. These are the outcomes, from my perspective, of the discussion board in an online class. So, when asked to compare blogs to discussion boards, what do you think they said? 72% of respondents said that a blog is a "more effective discussion tool" than discussion boards.
The second new element I added to my online Art Appreciation class this semester was regular, weekly audio announcements. In previous semesters, I posted a text-based announcement that summarized the previous week and included a general preview of the new content and any other related course topics. This year I recorded a 2-4 minute announcement and posted it for my students in an .mp3 file and also included a transcript. This way students had a choice to listen to it or read it (and, of course, this option made the announcement accessible to those who do not have the luxury of a choice). Here's what my survey revealed. When asked if they listened to the audio or read the transcript, 100% of the students said they listened to the audio. Keep in mind, they probably could have read the announcement in much less time than it takes to listen to it! I also asked my students if they agreed with this statement: "The use of audio for announcements, instead of text, increased the sense of my instructor's presence in my learning experience" and 94.4% of students said "yes."
Here are a couple of excerpts from the survey:
I'm taking all online classes this semester, and I can say that by far I feel like I've been better connected to my classmates through the use of the blogs, and I feel more connected to the teacher because of the use of the audio lectures. I don't know what it is, but just hearing someones voice helps me to feel much more involved in the lecture.
I think when a professor tries new, innovative, state of the art type ways to learn, that encourages us students because we see that the professor is trying all ways they can to provide us many ways to learn. To me, honestly, it shows dedication and that a professor really wants us to learn the subject.
Finally, I am often asked how my older students respond to using emerging technologies. While I can't speak for all of them, I did check in with one of my return students and asked her to send me her end of the semester thoughts about this topic. She told me,
I started this class with the mind set it would be liked my other online classes. To my surprise it was riddled with all kinds of new technology that I heard of but never put into practice. I had no idea what blogging would entail..Even posting photographs seemed a bit challenging. I almost quit the class. I am so glad that I hung in there. The blogs was a creative experience and so much better than the discussion board. The voicethread made it seem like you were actually in class with other students. ... No matter what the challenge was I found a way to complete the task at hand. I am 50 years old and have a full time job, so it was not easy, but I found it a self esteem building learning experience.
It sounds weird, but I really felt more involved in this class than on campus classes. With on campus classes, it's easy to feel hidden out of the attention of the teacher. Taking classes online, despite the fact that I never see the teacher, I strangely felt a strong connection to the instructor. I never have really been able to see other students work in on campus classes... that definately seemed to make the class more personal.
So, what are your thoughts about these findings? I'd love to hear some feedback!