Creating a Culture of Care in the Online Learning Environment

Concurrent Session 4

Brief Abstract

Implementing a culture of care in online learning is crucial to student success. This session will explore the idea of a culture of care and how the use of artificial intelligence-based tools allow faculty to create a supportive and flexible learning environment for students.


Jennifer Zaur is an assistant professor in the Department of Education and Liberal Arts at the University of Arizona Global Campus. She has a BA in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Language and Literacy, both from Arizona State University. She been an elementary school teacher, a reading interventionist, teacher mentor, and an instructor of professional development workshops. For the last eight years she has worked in higher education focusing on student retention, curriculum development and best practices in online learning.
Dr. Amy Johnson is a Core Faculty member for the Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education degree program in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC). She earned a Doctorate of Early Childhood Development and Education from Texas Woman’s University, a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Chapman University, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from San Diego State University. Dr. Johnson began her career teaching elementary grades in the Cajon Valley School District. She transitioned into higher education in 2010 and enjoys the diversity of University of Arizona Global Campus students. Dr. Johnson lives in the Ft. Worth, Texas, area with her husband and two daughters.

Extended Abstract

As students and educators enter a new era of remote learning, some research suggests that classroom technology is more popular than ever. Tools that use artificial intelligence to streamline processes like scoring quizzes or reviewing grammar have proven to be effective at automating some of the processes that used to be an inextricable part of being an educator. 

For many instructors, the rise of technology tools in the classroom during the pandemic has resurfaced longstanding concerns about what role those tools should play in the learning experience. Will ubiquitous video lectures, AI-based grading tools, and platforms that provide students with real-time writing feedback make traditional teaching obsolete?

The answer, as it turns out, is yes. And that’s a good thing – because as this panel will demonstrate, our collective opinion about what constitutes “traditional teaching” is overdue for an overhaul. Instructors and online learning leaders at the University of Arizona Global Campus and Ivy Tech will show how these two very different institutions are, paradoxically enough, using technology to create a culture of care that makes online learning experiences more human. 

The bulk of many faculty members’ jobs focuses on the rote delivery of content, the performance of administrative tasks, or the minutiae of grammar correction and answering similar questions over and over again. These are the parts of teaching most likely to be replaced by technology, and they’re also the parts that get in the way of what teaching should be. Can online discussion tools help to address this challenge – enabling faculty to actively cultivate a culture of care in the classroom and engage more deeply in substantive and meaningful ways with their students?

A robust body of research indicates that quality online discussion can greatly improve faculty satisfaction and course outcomes. At both of these institutions, instructors used an inquiry-based discussion tool, powered by artificial intelligence, with the aim of boosting engagement in online classes. 

What they found was that this approach didn’t just improve students’ participation. It also enabled them to build meaningful and engaged communities that kept learning going even outside the context of specific assignments. Discussion platforms’ instant feedback tools help students edit their contributions in real time, and encourage students to cite sources and ask deeper questions – leading to deeper engagement in discussion and, in turn, a sense of understanding and respect between students who are prompted to reflect on one another’s viewpoints. Pedagogy that supports intrinsic student motivation – by supporting robust peer-to-peer interaction, asking students to formulate and pose inquiries, and encouraging them to assume a kind of teaching role with peers can be especially powerful. 

Participants at the panel will learn about the challenges that both institutions have faced over the past eighteen months and the way that new technologies have helped them to both respond to students’ needs during a challenging time, and encourage the creation of new and enriching communities through discussion.