Instructional Design

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Course Design

Instructional Design Unit

Office of Faculty Support and Development


Teaching Principle 1

Encourage Student-Faculty Interaction
  prin1   This is the most important factor in learning. Student motivation comes mainly as a result of communication and interaction with the instructor. It enhances their commitment to the course and even encourages them to think about their own values and plans. In the traditional classroom, this is easy and intuitive. From the first day of class, you are interacting with your students and encouraging them to interact with you: a syllabus is provided with your contact information, you may write it on the board and clarify your availability, provide office hours, etc. Some instructors are also available before or after class to talk.    
“Frequent student-faculty contact is the most important factor in student motivation and involvement”
  Overall, it is important to share your experiences with the students and especially to share your enthusiasm for the subject, and while this is harder to do in the online environment, it’s just as important.

Best Practices

You can send out an introductory letter before the course begins, it could be emailed or snail-mailed up to 2-weeks before the course starts. This lets the students know what they need to do to prepare for the course: the technical, how to get into the course, who they should contact in case of problems...

You can also write a simple 2-3 sentence greeting on the homepage of your course welcoming the students. Such an introduction is very beneficial and puts the student in a positive frame of mind about their involvement in your course.

Another option is to do a video or audio introduction, or to add a digital picture of yourself so students can put a face with the name. This makes it easier for them to view you as a real person and makes them feel connected and welcome.

It’s good practice to send email to individual students every now and then if you notice someone falling behind or not regularly participating in discussions. This will encourage them to come to you with any questions or concerns they may have. It’s convenient, fast, and students often find it more intimate and less intimidating than meeting in a faculty member’s office or any face-to-face setting with an instructor. Research shows that students are more comfortable discussing problems in this manner, especially sensitive or embarrassing issues.

  Example: Professor Norman Coombs reports that, after twelve years of teaching black history at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the first time he used email was the first time a student asked what he, a white man, was doing teaching black history. The literature is full of stories of students from different cultures opening up in and out of class when email became available. Other things that faculty have found very helpful in this area: clearly stating your email policy in your syllabus (are you available on weekends, how quick to expect a response from you in the week). Students sometimes expect email response time to be within hours while faculty usually think that a day is reasonable. So communicate what your policy is in this regard. You can also specify certain hours during the week that you are available and setup online office hours. In Vista there is a real-time (text) chat tool that can be used for this purpose.
  Wimba Classroom allows instructors to create an efficient on-line class increasing interaction with their students.  
  • Advanced whiteboard options
  • Polling and survey capabilities