Observations from (almost) 100 Online Student Self-Introductions & Advice for Better Results

Concurrent Session 4

Brief Abstract

“Introduce yourself on the discussion forum and reply to your classmates.”  Who has not seen this in an online class?  Educators hope the students will meet, establish community – instead another task is checked, with nothing gained. Discover strategies to combat this phenomenon and create value in the self-introduction exercise.

Extended Abstract

Some form of “Introduce yourself on the discussion forum and reply to your classmates” is a nearly ubiquitous feature of the online course experience.  As educators we hope the students will indeed meet one another, become acquainted, and begin to establish the social presence necessary to build community.   Instead, too many students see tasks “as boxes to be quickly checked off a task list” (Simonds & Brock, 2014, p. 11).  This tendency is especially true of younger learners, who are now appearing in greater numbers in online courses.  Helping students overcome the unfortunate propensity to under-value activities can better capture the benefits of collaborative engagement and increase motivation (Feeley & Parris, 2012).  As part of a long-running online course, students were asked to introduce themselves using a talking picture approach and respond to one another.  This session will offer the discoveries made in a study of approximately one hundred such student self-introductions, in five sections of a graduate level online educational technology course, encompassing a total of two hundred ninety-one discussion forum posts.  The course was taught within a Blackboard Learn 9.x environment and required students to create a self-introduction using Fotobabble, to which they linked from within a discussion forum post.  Students’ own reactions and perceptions from interviews will be shared.  Additionally, the assumptions made about the timing and structure of this introduction activity as well as its immediate and lasting value will be disrupted by the data gathered.  All of the lessons learned and important next steps will be shared in our time together.  Session attendees will leave with new ideas and the tools necessary to implement them in their own online courses.  Resources will include re-usable assignment language, a scoring rubric, and practical advice for creating the kind of value we hope for when we ask students to introduce themselves to one another in an online course.

Feeley, M. and Parris, J. (2012). An Assessment of the PeerWise Student-Contributed Question System’s Impact on Learning Outcomes: Evidence from a Large Enrollment Political Science Course.

Simonds, T. and Brock, B. (2014). Relationship between age, experience, and student preference for types of learning activities in online courses. The Journal of Educators Online, 11(1).