Session 3: Engagement & Building Community


When we think engagement and community building within the online context, the Discussion Board has been a primary tool for achieving that end.  As online learning has gained momentum, other techniques and tools have emerged that allow students to interact and collaborate on projects. 

A few highlights:

  • Leslie Hall, Faculty Innovation Center, shared the importance of setting expectations for your students and being mindful of how you introduce students to new tools or approaches. Leslie worked with Jeff Hellmer, Music, on his edX MOOC, Jazz Appreciation.
  • Diane Schallert, Educational Psychology, introduced the idea of synchronous online discussions that can happen online or during a face-to-face class.  Her research has found that this approach almost always makes for a more shared, equal, democratic conversation than face-to-face talk.
  • Molly Hatcher, Graduate Student Development, introduced ideas for how to craft a social presence in a virtual space.  The key is good communication practices that provides students with access to the instructor and infuses your presence into the course.
  • Lea Engle, Faculty Innovation Center, spoke about Using Canvas to Empower Students where students and instructor work together to achieve educational goals.  Students drive some content and are responsible for their own and each others' learning-success.

Examples from UT Faculty

Penne Restad, History, created an assignment where students built an interactive timeline depicting major events, people, and places in the history of UT - Austin.

Adam Rabinowitz, Classics, has students contribute to the transcription effort that helps prepare these documents for public use. The Briscoe Center for American History has a pilot program to transcribe archived papers of Judge Alexander Watkins Terrell, UT founder.

Some additional examples of how students can make real contributions while they learn: Galaxy Zoo & Foldit