VC’s online students ‘get engaged’ in learning
Kaysi Neuvar, a student taking the statistics online at Victoria College, said online classes give students who don't live near campus an opportunity to achieve their educational goals without the hassle of long-distance travel.
Kaysi Neuvar, a student taking the statistics online at Victoria College, said online classes give students who don't live near campus an opportunity to achieve their educational goals without the hassle of long-distance travel.

As part of Victoria College’s five-year Quality Enhancement Plan, VC faculty have adopted several techniques to help students become active learners – not only in the classroom – but in an online environment as well.

Among those faculty is Matt Wiley, VC’s Quality Enhancement Plan director and associate professor of mathematics, who teaches an online course on statistics. He strives to ensure that students he can’t physically see are actively engaged in learning.

“My students may be virtual, yet each is very real to me,” Wiley said. “Students who engage and take charge of their own learning experience better success rates than do disengaged students. I believe online courses, done right, can provide the same vital experience of knowledge discovery and the joy of personal mastery as a traditional course.”

Wiley’s online students have access to the syllabus, textbook information (the textbook for this course is free), testing center schedules, and when to register for exams.

In the online statistics course, students visit the weekly homework discussion boards. There, they are given sections to read and examples to work, along with links to videos that explain the concepts.

Students are also tasked with answering online quizzes. A correct answer receives a green check mark, while a wrong answer is marked with a red cross.

“They get this instant feedback, and they have multiple attempts at this,” Wiley explained. “The idea is that if you are having a lot of trouble getting correct answers, you can go into this homework forum and post questions. Students can discuss what they were trying and why, then their peers can chime in.”

Wiley said it’s a win-win for him and his students. He only has to answer an online question once, and it shows students that asking questions is not difficult.

It’s sort of a ‘village’ approach to teaching and learning rather than classes where it’s just me interacting with students in the course,” Wiley said.

Kaysi Neuvar, a student taking Wiley’s statistics class, cited the advantages of online learning.

“Online classes give students like me, who don't live near campus, an opportunity to achieve their goals of an education without the hassle of long-distance travel,” Neuvar said. “Meeting in a virtual classroom is a great way for shy or normally quiet students to ask questions and interact with others in a way they don't usually get to in a face-to-face setting, making the experience more comfortable.”

Sharon Hyak, VC biology instructor, teaches biology and environmental biology online to non-science majors.

“I begin making associations with online students by asking that they introduce themselves and describe their educational goals and interests,” Hyak said. “This provides a direction for some discussions, as I try to link the course into students’ everyday lives. My goal is to stimulate their interest in the course.”

Hyak posts current topics based on material from chapters being covered on the Blackboard discussion boards.

Each week, her students meet in a virtual classroom to discuss difficulties understanding course materials or how current events connect with the course material. Hyak shares Wiley’s opinion that students tend to feel less intimidated answering questions in an online format.

“Students that may normally hesitate in the classroom to speak up for fear of being wrong, or perhaps due to shyness, will more readily attempt to answer questions online,” she said.

Published: Thursday, 02 July 2015
 

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