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The Key to Effective Internet Instruction

Sally Kuhlenschmidt & Lois Layne

presented May 21, 2001, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education Faculty Development Conference

The Internet isn't a broadcast medium. It's a conversation. --John Perry Barlow

(Audience contributions can be found at the end of the presentation summary.)

Terminology for this presentation:

Interaction or Interactivity refers to

Objectives of presentation (reflect Bloom's Taxonomy)

  1. Discuss what is new and different
  2. Discover the advantages of interaction
  3. List sample interaction modalities and activities
  4. Outline the steps in designing interaction
  5. Adapt class activities for the Internet
  6. Share and discuss activities so developed.

This is a starting point, not the final word.

Functions of Interaction

Begin by stating your objectives and noting how interaction can help with each using

Bloom's Taxonomy. To refresh your memory the taxonomy is:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Comprehension
  3. Application
  4. Analysis
  5. Synthesis
  6. Evaluation

What is new and different about on-line instruction/interaction?

Interaction Modalities.

Your options for interaction include

  1. The telephone, fax, and face-to-face if convenient. Faculty sometimes forget that these remain options when you move on-line.
  2. E-mail and mailing lists. Advantage is immediacy and it comes to the student. Disadvantage is the instructor and the students can get overwhelmed with e-mail.
  3. Discussion boards (aka Forum aka newsgroups)-- permits asynchronous, more thoughtful responses to discussion, at any time of day/night, allows you to easily track student contributions. What most on-line instructors use.
  4. Chatrooms-- Synchronous (everyone has to be present at the same time). Hard to schedule and with more than 5 people can end up being more confusing than helpful. Some find it effective for particular populations or purposes, such as a study session before an exam. Practice your style in a nonprofessional setting to smooth out your "on-line personality."
  5. MUDs, MOOs: These are text based virtual environments. They are chat in a described environment. It is analogous to reading a story in which all the characters are actual people who generate the dialogue. Requires greater comfort with technology but may be very useful for extensive role-play activities.

Seven Principles of Good Practice (Chickering & Gamson)

  1. Encourages contact between students and faculty-- such as use of e-mail, telephone, even face-to-face if convenient
  2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students-- using the e-mail round robin (see below) or group activities
  3. Encourages active learning -- such as WebQuests or Case studies for group discussion.
  4. Gives prompt feedback-- possible with e-mail, chat, or even by how on-line practice tests are set up.
  5. Emphasizes time on task-- structure of the grading system and points for discussion can encourage this.
  6. Communicates high expectations-- Again, the grading system and types of tasks assigned....however, it is easy to overwhelm the student in this environment and it is best to start small.
  7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning-- incorporated in the tone of your replies and how you involve and accept contributions from all students.

Chickering, A. & Gamson, Z. (No date). Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education. [Online]. Available: [2001, May 17].

Examples of Activities mentioned above

Designing an Internet Interaction for your Class

  1. Explicitly list the objectives for your students as well as yourself (See Bloom's Taxonomy)
  2. Select a topic or activity
  3. Describe strategies for interactions
  4. Choose your interaction modality, e.g., discussion board
  5. Anticipate the strengths and possible pitfalls: Be patient, train your students, keep it simple!

If you're looking to find the key to the Universe, I have some bad news and some good news.

The bad news is - there is no key to the Universe.

The good news is - the universe has been left unlocked.

Contributions by Audience at Presentation

Discussion focus can be on a content area from student readings or research. Issues are similar whether face-to-face or on a discussion board.

Assign students to smaller groups. Group memberships can be mixed across sites (whether interactive television classrooms or Internet instruction). Give demonstrations.

You might assign a group to monitor the discussion board for a 2 week period and prepare a collaborative report during the 3rd week to share back.

You could have a weekly group leader and e-mail him/her topics that you want discussed around a particular problem.

If you use chat, have a leader in charge-- set it up based on a discussion prompt. After 5-6 week s you get a very tight group.

Don't forget the phone is available.

Post an example or issue and ask students to agree/disagree with the topic and tell why... have the discussion group work toward consensus. An example of an issue for a class in Bioinformatics could be "How do you use computers in your practice to access information?" In Interior Design you might ask about product liability issues. Or you might give students data about causes of death and ask them how they could use this information to avoid or prevent deaths.

Remember to build in thought time for the students. That happens as a consequence of face-to-face classes being spaced over time and may be lost on-line if you don't plan for it.

Teach students about how to be on-line students successfully. Teach them to structure their time and how to respond appropriately. Explicitly teach them netiquette (These things were done for face-to-face classes before they got to college. There hasn't been time for the current generation to be taught these things in grade school.)

What do you do about an overbearing student who monopolizes the discussion forum?

How can you get feedback on your teaching?

Further Resources | Issues in Using the Internet in Instruction

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Website created: June 1996. Page Created: May 28, 2001. Last Modified: May 28, 2001.