Thesis: Main Characteristics of Good Teaching

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¶ … Teaching

Characteristics and difficulties of teaching a distance learning course

Even for a fairly unmotivated student, the human, one-on-one interactive nature of the classroom environment can prove to be profoundly motivating. This is one reason why, for 'at risk' students ensuring their continued attendance in class is such an important aspect of the educational process. If the students 'show up' a teacher can then energize their interest in learning through his or her charismatic presence. Although a distance learning teacher may not like to admit it, for many students, learning at a distance can feel like not being in class at all. Motivating students is a critical concern of the online pedagogical process online from day one. While some online students, because of their greater maturity and desire to complete a degree in a timely fashion may be intrinsically psychologically motivated, a teacher cannot assume this is the profile of all of his or her students. At every juncture of the online instructional process, sustaining student motivation must be the primary concern, as well as conveying the course content.

Motivation is enhanced by ensuring students receive timely feedback, positive and negative. Distance learning teachers and students often lack the ability to convey and receive immediate feedback, depending on the technology used in the course. It is important that the teacher is mindful of keeping a watchful eye on students' difficulties and strengths when reviewing assignments, noting when assignments are turned in late and targeting deficits in basic skills. All courses teaching instructors how to conduct classes online stress the importance of giving strong and detailed feedback. Consistent feedback creates a sense of presence for the instructor, and depending on the student's needs, class size, and course content, can even be more individualized than a 'real world' course (Faculty Development 101, 2008, Lesson 9). The expectations for students must be particularly clear at the beginning of the course, to minimize resentment of critical feedback in the detached format of email, where criticism cannot always be softened by physical and vocal cues.

If a student's internal sense of motivation flags during the course, having a sense of responsibility to the teacher and the online classroom environment can boost motivation. Creating a peer community online, such as requiring students to post on a blackboard discussion forum, can foster a motivational sense of responsibility for others and interest in the class. Instructors must monitor such boards, however, to ensure content is appropriate and on-topic. Discussion should be free, bur respectful. Teachers can post comments on various threads, as well as engage in personal email with students. A course webpage where teachers and students can post daily comments and references to issues pertinent to the course seen in the news and on the web can also foster a sense of community. This can also provide a warehouse and wealth of additional, data and information about the course, which will boost student performance and interest in the subject matter.

Of course, to some extent, the instructor has less control and flexibility over motivational strategies he or she may use online. The instantaneous give and take of a chat room or email is not the same as seeing a student's… [END OF PREVIEW]

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