Online Learning is a Two Way Street!

The Setting: Fully asynchronous online class – Principles of Marketing – Winter, 2015

The Assignment: A course-long project in which the students working in teams had to write a comprehensive Marketing Plan for a new product idea or for an existing product targeted to a new audience.

Nothing it is really revolutionary till here. The use of collaborative group work for online learning and teaching has been moderately researched*. Despite the associated challenges (time conflicts, lack of trust among students, various degrees of participation and commitment, different set of expectations about performance, different students’ background, etc), the current understanding is that these team efforts are relevant and enhance the students’ learning experience. The corporate world is now dominated by diverse Global Virtual Teams (GBT) . I like to think that this “in-class” effort prepares my [business] students for a workplace [business] reality that they will soon will have to face (like it or not).

The Problem: I wanted the students to actually orally present an Executive Summary of their Marketing Plan to the whole online class so we could engage in a traditional Q& A session and meaningful discussion. Coordinating multiple agendas proved to be really difficult if not impossible, but then….

The Solution: One of the students suggested to use VoiceThread (VT) so each team could create a VT, upload their Executive Summary, and record the oral presentation at their own convenience before a set deadline. I could record my comments and questions during a 24-hour window period and finally students would have another 24 hours to address my questions. The VTs were shared with the whole class so every team had a chance to see what the other students were presenting. The interaction among teams was encouraged.

VT - Team Project Presentation - Sample slide
VT works wonders for team presentations! CC-BY -Ballesteros

It is a simple and effective idea that, as mentioned early, wasn’t mine. A student took advantage of the General Q&A Forum to post this suggestion that became a significant improvement to my original course design. Thank you!

So, my take away… I always make sure in my courses I include different venues to “listen” to the “voice of the students”, such as Online Weekly Journals or a mid-term K.I.S.S exercise. I am open to suggestions and to experiment with some of the ideas for course management that students bring to the table. Our online students are getting more and more savvy about this medium…. so let’s listen to what they have to say.

How do you facilitate this vital conversation?

Looking forward to reading your suggestions, comments and ideas at @TLInnovations

Maria Ballesteros – Sola

Business Professor & Online/Blended Community- Faculty Lead

*Parra, J. L. (2013). Developing technology and collaborative group work skills: supporting student and group success in online and blended courses. Cutting-edge technologies in higher education, 6, 287-337.