Community, Security & Activity: The Trifecta of Online Learning

Concurrent Session 2

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Can you teach experiential learning online? In this session, we will present how this was made possible in an online group counselling course using different technologies. We will address how to build an online learning community and a trusted environment, how to  incorporating active learning strategies using the TPACK framework.


Bethany V. Smith is the Associate Director of Technology Training for DELTA at NC State University. She manages the day-to-day workflow of the instructional training team within the Instructional Support Services unit, and provides planning and oversight for DELTA’s faculty training service and special programs. Bethany has been at NC State University since 2003 and completed her Master’s in Instructional Technology in the College of Education. Her passion is to assist current and future instructors to integrate technology effectively in their classroom.
Jakia Salam is an Instructional Designer at DELTA where she works as a project lead and instructional designer for DELTA Grant projects. She works closely with faculty, new media team and project coordinator team to design, develop, and evaluate on-line, hybrid and face-to-face courses. Jakia is a technology enthusiast and always looking for ways using innovative technologies to develop pedagogically sound courses and address instructional challenges. Jakia provides leadership in the area of instructional design, including the creation of engaging, effective and pedagogically sound instructional materials and activities, the development of assessment and evaluation techniques and process, and incorporate learning technologies based on sound pedagogy and effectiveness. Prior to joining DELTA, Jakia worked in various roles including as a Senior Instructional Designer at UNC Chapel Hill, an Instructional Technology Consultant at UNC Greensboro, a full-time faculty at Guilford Technical Community College, a Chemical Engineer and Application Developer. Jakia holds a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and completed her Master of Science in Computer Science from UNC Greensboro in 2002. She also obtained a Graduate Certificate in e-learning from the College of Education at NC State in 2013.
Dr. Angie Smith received her doctorate degree in Counselor Education at North Carolina State University, Raleigh North Carolina. Currently, she is a Teaching Assistant Professor, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Supervisor (LPC-S) in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her experience as well as research and teaching interests include career counseling and development, online teaching and learning modalities, supervision in counseling, college counseling, and student development. Her most recent career pursuits include developing and teaching courses for an Online Master’s Program at North Carolina State University and co-authoring a book about online teaching within the helping professions.

Extended Abstract

In this session we will outline how we developed an experiential learning environment and leverage technology to achieve this goal. We will focus on four major instructional challenges: (1) Building an Online Community (2) Develop a Safe Environment for Students (3) Experiential Learning (4) Active Learning Strategies


The Distance Education and Learning Technology Applications (DELTA) staff collaborated with a College of Education Faculty member to convert a graduate level Group Counselling course to a fully online Distance Education (DE) course. The team, composed of the faculty member and several DELTA professionals, worked on a innovative solution to create an online environment that facilitated group counselling sessions securely and confidentially. These two factors were paramount in creating an online environment where students can experience group counselling as they would in a face-to-face setting. This aspect was crucial in creating a successful online course that provided the necessary experiential learning to the students comparable to experiences in a traditional face to face setting.


Learning Goals


  • Explore different  options and technologies to facilitate a group counseling sessions in an online environment

  • Identify instructional challenges when developing on experiential learning environment for students online

  • Build and cultivate an online learning community with synchronous & asynchronous tools

  • Develop a safe and trusted environment for students with activities and selected tools

  • Learn how to in corporate active learning strategies utilizing TPACK model to select technology to support pedagogical approaches


Building an Online Community


Building an online community can be challenging. It takes a good deal of effort, planning, and effective use of instructional design strategies to create a sound and robust online community. We used asynchronous discussion tools such moodle forum and VoiceThread  in and outside of Moodle to build an online community of learners and foster social presence within the course.  


Develop a Safe Environment for Students


Due the nature of this course, it was essential that a safe and secure learning environment was created where students could share their life experiences and learn from each other. We looked for ways  to make students comfortable with the online environment and to build trust amongst them. One of the major challenges for a group counseling course is ensuring that students can start interacting and trusting each other from day one. How do you do this in an online course? We will present the strategies in the session.


Creating an Experiential Learning Environment Online


In an experiential learning environment, students learn from doing and sharing their experiences with each other. For students to learn from their experience, there should be a conversational space, where students can reflect and talk about their experience together (Kolb, 1984).

In the Group Counseling course we applied this experiential learning model. The students are encouraged to share their personal experiences, reflection and ideas. In an online environment this was a difficult task, but with the help of various technologies we were able to successfully create this course online.


Active Learning Strategies & TPACK


Active learning strategies are an essential pedagogical practice in the counseling education profession. These strategies include active discussions, small group work,  Q & A session, etc. Our challenge was to bring some of these strategies to the online environment. As instructional designers we needed to start with our course objectives and content acquisition goals, then we could move to the pedagogical practices that best supported those goals and objectives as well as the technology that supports both the content knowledge acquisition and the pedagogical strategies. This Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge Model - TPACK (Koehler & Mishra, 2009) allowed for us to think about choosing the appropriate tools to support student learning. If discussion was a necessary pedagogical strategy, what tools would help facilitate the discussion we would like to have online? We would consider questions surrounding the need to be asynchronous and utilize tools such as forums or VoiceThread or synchronous and utilize Blackboard Collaborate.


Audience Engagement

  • Brainstorming activity as participants enter

  • Recap brainstorming activity once the goals are defined

  • Audience Poll on Instructional Challenges

  • Closing with Q&A


Program Format, & Presentation Outline


  1. Brainstorming activity as participants enter:

  2. Overview of Topic & Introduction of Presenters

  3. Goals of the Session and recap of Brainstorming

  4. Overview of Group Counseling Course

    1. Moving from Traditional Face to Face to Online

  5. Four Major Instructional Challenges

    1. Audience Poll on Instructional Challenges

    2. Building an Online Community

      1. Creating an Online Community of Practice

      2. Using Synchronous & Asynchronous tools

        1. Utilize Moodle Forums & Voicethread

    3. Developing a Safe Environment for Students

      1. Activities that build a community and foster a safe environment

      2. Selecting tools that provide safety & security

    4. Experiential Learning

      1. Facilitating group counseling sessions in an online environment

    5. Active Learning Strategies

      1. Engaging students online with Technology

        1. Utilizing TPACK model to select technology to support pedagogical and content knowledge approaches

  6. Next Iteration

  7. Closing with Q&A

It can be a daunting process to develop a course online, and particularly difficult to take a course that has community engagement and experiential learning at its core. We focused on the learner’s needs first and foremost, and this lens drove the majority of our decisions. We recommend using the TPACK framework to help plan what technology can support your pedagogical and content knowledge. Once you can focus on the learning outcomes and experiences of your course, you can start to map the technology that can support those goals.