EXPLORING BEST PEDAGOGICAL PRACTICES FOR VIRTUAL CLASSROOMS
University of Ontario Institute of Technology (CANADA)
While considerable research and investigation have been conducted on asynchronous online learning (e.g., Bernard et al., 2004; Hrastinski, 2008; Thurmond & Wambach, 2004), much less is known about synchronous or virtual classrooms. Research and practice within asynchronous environments does not readily transfer to virtual environments. Since 2010, the use of virtual classrooms has grown considerably, although the research in this area is still in its infancy (e.g., Politis & Politis, 2016; Szeto, 2015; Watts, 2016). The purpose of the current presentation is to present and assess promising pedagogy for teaching and learning in virtual classrooms.
Based on five years of developing, designing and teaching virtual online courses in a Master of Education program, 10 themes focusing on the most effective teaching and learning strategies will be discussed including communication, pre-course preparation, design of first class, establishing social presence, learning outcomes and assessment, addressing technology problems, in-class activities, meaningful technology tools, consolidation, formative and course improvement. Empirical evidence supporting these pedagogical strategies will be offered based on two years of qualitative and quantitative data collected over four semesters from 192 graduate students. Finally, a model for continued pedagogical improvement in virtual classrooms will be articulated focusing on formative feedback, regular communication with students, flexible course design, and five key learning principles (constructivism, creativity, collaboration, choice, authenticity).
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