I don’t know any of my students. For 20 years, in our online learning and teaching experience, we didn’t know anyone. Like a chapter from Ralph Ellison The invisible Man, we have gone unnoticed in life without any significant connection to another living soul. We undertook a constant comparison of our experiences. Both student and instructor perspectives challenged norms and beliefs, resulting in a model for transforming the asynchronous learning space.
Although there are many articles and recommendations to improve learning, often centered on a theory or a concept, we found a gap: many recommendations do not translate because there are no steps beyond. beyond the general. To effect a transformation of the asynchronous learning space, defined actions and obstacles offer instructors a way to immediately change their practice.
Ask any teacher or professor, from preschool to senior school, and one common factor defines success at all levels: relationships. We have noticed in the asynchronous learning environment the importance of cultivating community. Research has found a humanistic theory of schooling, where physical, academic, social, and personal health included in planning and implementation, could displace asynchronous learning to help build strong and meaningful relationships (Coker, 2021 ). As in our communities or in a physical classroom, we cannot simply place people side by side and expect them to be good neighborly.
Learners work best in environments where they are connected to each other. Such connections help learners to engage with content and identify WITI (the “spirit”), or Why is it important? To achieve this, a multiplier is needed:
- Transform asynchronous learning = Social * Academic * Staff (SAP)
The SAP protocol requires students to do more than answer a discussion question, answer another student, or write an article.
Conversation Corner-Questioning-Debating-Alternatives (CC-QDA): a structured response system
Initially, we found that the students did not know what or how the SAP protocol worked, so we developed concrete steps and actions to help explain better. Thinking routines have become a guiding principle operationalized as a Structured Response System (SRS) CC-DAQ (conversation corner, questioning-debate-alternatives):
- Social. Presentations should not be the starting and ending point for developing social ties. Face-to-face students work together and collaborate, but asynchronous learning spaces often require each activity to be in isolation. Requiring peer learning and collaboration on homework and discussions means that students must co-create and co-reflect together, both in and outside of the classroom.
- Academic. QDA pushes the idea of a Socratic seminar by making each answer question the original poster (an excellent system is the 5 whys), debate (doubts, obstacles and unforeseen problems) and proposes alternatives (two to three alternatives which could be better) while encouraging reciprocal teaching. Playing devil’s advocate, playing a role, and offering a pre-mortem can also stimulate meaningful discussions.
- Staff. The Conversation Corner (CC) is still optional, but students are encouraged to share what they want to learn from each other and lighten the seriousness of the class. Students are encouraged to CC in every chat message and email, including adding images.
Initiate CC-QDA in the asynchronous learning space
First, CC bridges the gap between being anonymous, faceless class attendees and real people with real problems. Students, if comfortable, often talk about deaths, divorces, and illnesses, as well as triumphs, such as births, grandchildren, and vacations. Finally, students also celebrate daily events, from gardening and cooking dinner to decorating the holidays. There is constant support and a listening ear.
Second, the QDA part of CC-QDA, or Questioning-Debating-Alternatives, helps to generate genuine curiosity among peers. The CC-QDA helps foster collaboration while helping each other. Students step out of their comfort zone and challenge their peers to qualify their thinking and often change their attitudes, beliefs and values. A structured response system requires all components of reciprocal teaching while activating prior knowledge.
Variety arouses interest and presents several strategies for students to consider multiple perspectives at once while using CC-QDA. Role play means that students have to pretend to be another interested party and present from that angle; discussions can have multiple roles assigned, for example students whose last name starts with AM have one role and NZ another. A pre-mortem provides a tabletop exercise with students claiming it’s a year later, where nothing the poster says is correct. Students develop obstacles, drawbacks and unintended consequences while presenting alternatives and better solutions. Finally, mutual learning (instructor and students act as a predictor, questioner, clarifier, and / or synthesizer) allows students to define goals and objectives (Knotts & Seago, 2021) by examining a subject from many different angles. different angles.
Balancing CC-QDA to Foster Authentic Discussions
There were hiccups. Students discovered what Giacumo and Savenye (2020) cautioned: Thinking routines and structured response systems can overwhelm students and render learning inauthentic. Students can be put off by overly energetic or involved instructors. Every semester, students are uncomfortable being rude and combative after such CC jokes. Students often perceive themselves as unable to provide a convincing answer, so that they may even refrain from answering completely. Finding a balance between thinking routines and authentic discussions requires vigilance and a sense of security.
The instructor can melt resistance and increase compliance by praising and modeling expectations before, in action, and after. Providing sentence beginnings can also help students see how to form a discussion that challenges and expands thinking. QDA is not the same as being obnoxious or assaulting a person but offers both optimism and synergy through collaboration. Teaching Honor the Response (HTA) means first seeking to understand and honor what has been said before pushing back. QDA recognizes students for their strengths while developing new perspectives. Two-way teaching allows for genuine student engagement and opportunities to synthesize and assess knowledge.
As an instructor or student, if we saw another discussion starting with “Good job,” there would be little reason to keep reading. Students should be deliberative, introspective, and creative without being overwhelmed by too many thinking directions and routines. Many students are eager to share with their friends while taking their classes. The SAP protocol helps cultivate a community of learners.
As a student and instructor, we have made more contacts and friends over the past year in asynchronous classes than the previous 20 years combined. We ask students to get to know each other first in every interaction to become colleagues, friends and eventually to make lifelong bonds while sharing the life we lead and the ups and downs of life. Making students human is not a waste of time but a necessary step on the path to learning.
David Coker, EdD, is an Assistant Professor of Education in the Advanced Learning Program at Fort Hays State University Online and runs an alternative school in a juvenile detention center. He sits on various editorial boards and regularly publishes on education leadership, policy and technology.
Tiffany Harris-Marion is a Certified Educator and Executive Director of IMON Excellence Academy, a blended learning academy for children and youth with unique abilities or special needs. She is also pursuing an Education Specialist Diploma in Educational Leadership and Innovation at Fort Hays State University while advocating for the rights of children and youth from vulnerable populations in her community.
Coker, DC (2021). Education, Politics and Young Offenders: A Mixed Methods Investigation During COVID-19. Journal of Education and Learning, 10(1), 22-38. https://doi.org/10.5539/jel.v10n1p22
Giacumo, LA, & Savenye, W. (2020). Asynchronous Discussion Board Design to Support Cognition: Effects of Rubrics and Instructor Prompts on Critical Thinking, Student Achievement, and Satisfaction. Research and development in educational technologies, 68(1), 37-66. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-019-09664-5
Knotts, A., & Seago, N. (2021). Impact of the design of a video-based asynchronous learning environment on teachers’ perception and mathematical knowledge. Journal of Theory and Practice of Higher Education, 21 (4), 190-206. https://doi.org/10.33423/jhetp.v21i4.4218
Sandanayake, CT (2019). Promote blended learning based on open educational resources. International Journal of Educational Technologies in Higher Education, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-019-0133-6