While it is important to us class norms and procedures to keep all the participants of an online or blended learning course knowing what is required and how well they are doing in the course, using various instructional strategies can promote maintained student motivation through the end of the course (Lehman & Conceicao, 2014). It has been found that interactive instructional strategies are more favored by students of online and blended learning environments than those that are less interactive (Abrami, Bernard, Bures, Borokhovski, & Tamim, 2011). With this in mind, instructors should strive to promote interaction in the online and blended learning environments.
Student-student interaction is one of the three learning interactions that were discussed by Moore (1989). This describes the interaction that happens among students who are enrolled in a course together (as cited in Abrami et.al, 2011). Strategies that can promote interaction among students is the use of synchronous and asynchronous chats. Synchronous and asynchronous chats can happen through text, voice, or video interaction. With the availability of high speed internet and a plethora of digital tools that allow people to have conversations using one or all of these mediums, participants of a K-12 online or blended professional development course can interact, share ideas, and provide feedback to one another.
This second interaction, as described by Moore (1989), discusses the interactivity that happens between the student and the course instructor (as cited in Abrami et.al, 2011). While synchronous and asynchronous chats can be utilized between the instructor and student in the same way it can be utilized among students the instructor can also create lecture materials that can be used to teach or to enhance the further understanding of a topic by students.
One strategy that can be used to promote learning in online and blended K-12 professional development courses is the use of recorded media in the form of podcasts. Podcasts are recordings that can be accessed on demand and are focused on a specific topic. There are two methods for implementing these types of recordings. The first uses this medium as a way to deliver content that is required for the course itself and the second is to provide these recordings as supplemental materials for further study into topics students are interested in knowing more about (Key, 2012). Since teacher professional development is focused on making learning environments that will help teachers create better learning opportunities for their students, the use of podcasts is a great way to get additional content out to professional development participants. The mobility of this medium allows the participant to engage in course content or additional content that is of interest to them when they are on the go.
Moore (1989) discusses student-content interaction describes the interaction students have with the course content (as cited in Abrami et.al, 2011). This interaction used to be limited to reading of the textbook, but with the internet, mobile devices, and web based tools, students can interact with media in numerous ways. One way is the use of hypermedia. Hartshorne (2008) showed that students who interacted with hypermedia had a more positive attitude toward the subject they were learning.
The use of hypermedia, provides students the freedom to choose what paths to take when learning about a topic. The media that is linked from the hypermedia platform, which can be in the form of a document, website, or other digital platform, can be various formats allowing students to not only choose their learning path, but also their learning medium. Instructors of online or blended K-12 professional development courses can use this instructional strategy to curate and promote exploration of the topics being learned through the course, which allows participants to learn the topic in a way that will help them in their classrooms the best.
Social media can be used as an different way for students to interact with content for a K-12 professional development course. Connected educators are teachers who connect with other educators and education related content through the use of social media applications. Twitter is the most popular of these tools. Teachers currently use this application to find and categorize their professional development and classroom experiences. Social media is a way for instructors of online and blended professional development courses to model how participants can both interact with the current course content and how they can continue to utilize these social media tools for self-directed professional development opportunities (Visser, Evering, & Barrett, 2014).
The different kinds of interactions participants have when they are in an online or blended K-12 professional development course can greatly impact not only the learning outcomes for the participant, but also the participant’s students. These interactions are enhanced by quality, effective feedback processes that help the participants create better understandings of the learning they are getting through these various types of interactions.
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