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Teaching Diversity Online is Possible

A professor at the Sam Houston State University, Rebecca Bustamante, says students have a tendency to shut down when talking about race during class discussions. This can pose a challenge when teaching a course about diversity issues. It gets even more difficult when the course is then taught online.

Courses in diversity are nothing new, they are a standard in education and educational-leadership programs. Although professors who teach them haven’t had many problems, they understand that personal attacks and conflicts are a possibility. It is a critical to build an online community and establish trust to keep the course on track.

Professors also say that students are much more open and honest about their thoughts and experiences, and this could be from the online environment. It also frees students from the awkwardness of confronting difficult topics in person.

Although there are pros to the situation, there are also cons. Teaching diversity through an online format is not ideal. An assistant professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln believes that, “Being face-to-face, you are actually able to hear and see the passion, not having that face-to-face connection inhibits the class a little bit.”.

Although another assistant professor at the Sam Houston State says it is doable. The general consensus is, that although online learning can pose a challenge, it’s up to the professor to create innovative ideas to properly teach students.

In this case some professors turn to using video to bring body language into the online classroom. One professor at West Virginia University, says that she requires students to all gather at the same time over an online video conference system, which allows them to have a real-time discussion and get to know one another.

Although teaching diversity online might be difficult, there are remedies. All it takes is some time and effort and setting guidelines for students.personal

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Faculty on the Fence About Providing Computing Devices to Students

20160928facultysupport4devicesSome colleges have the wonderful service of providing laptops or a tablet for students who don’t have access to one, or who have simply forgot theirs. It is a service that students value and use quite often. But in a recent survey by Campus Technology’s Teaching with Tech survey, about a quarter of the faculty (23 percent) support the institution providing devices to their students. 30 percent like the idea of having devices available, but only for those who reserve it. Still, the majority of instructors are favoring the idea of providing devices to an extent, making the overall count of those in favor, to 85 percent. A third of the instructors (33 percent) are leaning more towards the “bring your own device” model or BYOD; while another third (34 percent) will go with this approach with some uncertainties. While this may be an issues at colleges and universities that require a computer device in class, there are those that do not have to worry, as six in ten, or 56 percent of colleges or universities do not require students to bring a laptop or another computing device with them to class.

Another survey was done regarding a student’s access to internet. On average, according to Campus Technology’s research, about 82 percent of students have access to internet at home. It was found though, that 69 percent of faculty believe that between 51 and 100 percent of students have access to the internet. They have the presumption that students in college or a university are able to use the campus resources to get their school work done.

According to a professor from a New York college, this is not sufficient for those students who do not have internet access. He suggests that institutions should start including an “internet access package” along with the tuition.

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Half of Online Students Prefer this Route Over a Physical Campus.

A new study done by Learning House and Aslanian Market Research focused on students in online courses found that 50 percent of them would rather not attend classes on a physical campus.

The study was done in Spring of 2016 with 1,500 students who had either recently graduated, were currently enrolled or planned to enroll in the next year in a fully online higher education degree, certificate or license program; it found that while online courses were an only option for half of the students, 90 percent of them who had previously taken on-campus courses said that they preferred online courses or found them just as good.

According to Learning House’s Chief Academic Officer, David Clinefelter, 3.5 million students are working towards their degree online and that academic institution cannot afford to lose these students.

An important finding in this study is that most online students are unaware of the different pathways they can take during the college careers, such as micro-degrees or boot camps. They are more informed on the traditional college degree routes and templates, and only a third of the students were aware of the principles of competency-based education. Other findings include:

  • Among the factors that go into choosing an online route, tuition was found to be number one
  • The age for online students is decreasing as the average age for undergraduates this year was 29 for undergraduates and 33 for graduate students. That is done from 36 and 37 in 2014
  • About ¾ of students picked a school that had a physical campus within 100 miles of their home, with 32 percent of students stating that they planned on visiting the campus at least once a year, and 44 percent stating that they planned on visiting more frequently.
  • Computer science and IT has raised in popularity for graduate students with 20 percent choosing it – this drops education in the rankings, which dropped from 22 percent in 2014, to 14 percent this year.

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Gamification Champions

Organization change theory believes there are individuals, “champions”, who push an organization past its comfort zone into new territory. Champions may be faced with a challenge that they don’t know how to solve, but will say, “We’ll figure it out”.

On college campuses, IT champions can help educators embrace gamification. Supports of gamification believe it offers just as many benefits for college students as K-12 students. Well-designed games boost student engagement, build critical thinking skills by requiring students to plan and strategize, and clarify abstract concepts that may be hard to grasp from reading and lecture alone. For students currently in an online course, gaming provides opportunities for collaboration and teamwork.

Despire these benefits, faculty who are new to gamification may be hesitant to jump in. Professors might ask questions about where to start or how to ensure games deliver educational benefit. This is an opportunity for IT professionals (campus champions) to identify potential academic partners.



Edwin Lindsay, a teaching assistant professor in North Carolina State University Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, noticed students in his Introduction to Sports Management course lacked realistic expectations of future career paths. Lindsay partnered with NCU’s Distance Education & Learning Technology Applications (DELTA) to develop a gamification module. Lindsay and Stephen Bader, a business and technology applications specialist, created a Moodle plugin that lets students pursue one of 10 career paths by winning points within 14 skill sets. The game helps students identify skills they need to develop and related courses they can take to enhance those skills.

Linsay did not intentionally become a gamification champion, he eventually became one. His successful partnership with DELTA inspired gamification courses in NCSU’s horticulture department.

Champions Lead The Way

Champions help organizations thrive by understanding and sharing a vision: How have other institutions successfully brought gamification to the classroom? What benefits can it offer students in specific disciplines? How can a faculty/IT partnership pay off outside the classroom?

Champions are facilitators when colleagues are hesitant to embrace new technology, champions help them navigate unfamiliar territory. After faculty member or department rolls out gamification, champions help stakeholders extract lessons learned and help improve the process to make the transition easier.

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Engaged or Not?

The common view is to think of students as either engaged or not, however that is not the case. Fredricks writes, that it “can be short term and situation specific or long term and stable.” (Fredricks, et. al., p. 61) The Teaching Professor issued a newsletter, exploring the participation-engagement relationship. The two-study design with most of its eight hypotheses and three research questions confirming this conclusion: “oral participation is not a good indicator of engagement.” (Frymier and Houser, p. 99).

The research team indicated engagement as something they call “nonverbal attentiveness”. It is associated with behaviors, such as frequent eye contact, upright posture, seat location (closer to the front than the back), note taking, and positive facial expressions.

Most of the research focused on three aspects: behavioral engagement, emotional engagement, and cognitive engagement.

Behaviorally engaged students follow classroom rules and norms. Their behaviors demonstrate concentration and attention, by asking questions and contributing during discussions.

Emotional engagement reveals student attitudes toward learning. Attitudes can range from simply liking what they’re doing to deeply valuing the knowledge and skills they gain.

Cognitive engagement involves students wanting to understand something and being willing to go beyond what’s required in order to accomplish learning goals.

Yes, these parts of engagement work differently, but are “dynamically interrelated within the individual.” (Fredricks, et. al., p. 61) We need to also think about how engagement interacts with other aspects of learning, such as motivation and self-efficacy. We need to think about other aspects in order to help students succeed because engagement is an essential part of learning.

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