About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 3536-3547
Publication year: 2009
ISBN: 978-84-612-9801-3
ISSN: 2340-1117

Conference name: 1st International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2009
Location: Barcelona ,Spain

LEARNER ENGAGEMENT STRATEGIES IN DISTANCE LEARNING: MAKING OPTIMAL USE OF DISCUSSION BOARDS IN VIRTUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION (ART HISTORY) COURSES

A. Ter-Stepanian

Southern Connecticut State University (UNITED STATES)
Distance learning poses new problems for instructors; it changes the traditional understanding of instructional design. The adaptation of traditional, face-to-face courses to online format presents both challenges and opportunities; it also entails redefining pedagogical issues such as material delivery, requirements, assignments, discussions, and evaluation. Such matters are particularly pertinent when both instruction and testing are administered in a completely online, asynchronous environment. Traditional assessment methods in art history courses include: slide recognition, knowledge of material through multiple-choice or short answer testing, style recognition of unknown artworks, and short essays. In online, open-book environments, assessment methods have to be rethought to suit the virtual environment, as well as to guarantee the effective and adequate evaluation of the student’s command of the material. While timed tests may provide a somewhat objective picture of the student's familiarity with the material, students can also demonstrate their depth of understanding and familiarity with key concepts through discussion board postings; these, therefore, may also serve as effective assessment tools.

Discussion board assignments are also instrumental in creating a collaborative learning environment in an online class. Class discussion constitutes a crucial part of any art history course; it helps students develop critical thinking skills and allows them to better grasp the material. One of the disadvantages of asynchronous online art history courses is the lack of group communication involving instructors and students. Creating collaborative student group discussions in which students can usefully exchange ideas is therefore one of the most challenging aspects of distance learning instructional design. Not only can critical thinking be encouraged and facilitated by introducing challenging and intriguing topics in group discussions and blogs, but the specific nature of online communication provides a unique and positive atmosphere for discussion: anonymity fosters participation among students who are less fond of public speaking, schedule flexibility means students can do research before posting to discussion boards, a lack of time constraints means discussions do not have to ‘end’ when ‘class’ is over, and the variety of available tools means students can incorporate images, audio/video clips and graphics into their analytical reflections. This paper summarizes the most effective approaches taken to establishing group discussions in asynchronous online courses, discusses learner engagement strategies in the eLearning environment, describes best practices for the optimal use of discussion boards, analyzes the effects of role playing in online discussion environments, and compares different types of assignments and their learning outcomes. The analysis provides case studies to support this argument, drawing on examples from over sixty online undergraduate art history modules taught over the last eight years using BlackBoard and WebCT/Vista Virtual Learning Environments.
@InProceedings{TERSTEPANIAN2009LEA,
author = {Ter-Stepanian, A.},
title = {LEARNER ENGAGEMENT STRATEGIES IN DISTANCE LEARNING: MAKING OPTIMAL USE OF DISCUSSION BOARDS IN VIRTUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION (ART HISTORY) COURSES},
series = {1st International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies},
booktitle = {EDULEARN09 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-612-9801-3},
issn = {2340-1117},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Barcelona ,Spain},
month = {6-8 July, 2009},
year = {2009},
pages = {3536-3547}}
TY - CONF
AU - A. Ter-Stepanian
TI - LEARNER ENGAGEMENT STRATEGIES IN DISTANCE LEARNING: MAKING OPTIMAL USE OF DISCUSSION BOARDS IN VIRTUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION (ART HISTORY) COURSES
SN - 978-84-612-9801-3/2340-1117
PY - 2009
Y1 - 6-8 July, 2009
CI - Barcelona ,Spain
JO - 1st International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
JA - EDULEARN09 Proceedings
SP - 3536
EP - 3547
ER -
A. Ter-Stepanian (2009) LEARNER ENGAGEMENT STRATEGIES IN DISTANCE LEARNING: MAKING OPTIMAL USE OF DISCUSSION BOARDS IN VIRTUAL LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION (ART HISTORY) COURSES, EDULEARN09 Proceedings, pp. 3536-3547.
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