Read an excerpt from the article published in the March volume of BizEd Magazine titled "Community Building is Key to Online Learning" by Kristen Sosulski. The article offers strategies that business school administrators can consider when designing online courses.If schools want to design online courses that are dynamic, engaging, and educationally rich, I offer the following do’s and a couple of don’ts:
- …allow faculty to design their courses. This leads to teaching that’s filled with enthusiasm and creativity—the kind of teaching that builds dynamic learning communities and keeps students returning to the online classroom.
- …hire practitioners to teach. Some of our faculty are CEOs, CFOs, CLOs, and CMOs who bring their experiences to the online classroom. Their firsthand knowledge and passion for the topics they teach adds an applied dimension to our curriculum and leads to high student-to-student and faculty-to-student engagement.
- …offer 24/7 support. No matter where students are located, they must be a part of their school community and the global network of the university. For that reason, we work to deliver the same support to distance students that we do to our on-site students. That support includes online office hours, student orientation materials, 24-hour technical support, and tutoring help. That infrastructure helps online students feel included in the school.
- …design structured “meet-and-greet” activities. We want students to feel part of a learning community with their peers across NYU-SCPS, so we offer weekly online student orientations. During these “office hours,” we offer structured opportunities for students to meet one another, learn about the student services available, and even see and talk to each other online, in real time. It’s critical to create such opportunities throughout the program, so that the school can connect with online students to ensure they feel supported and are aware of the resources available to them. The orientation is delivered online, enabling students to complete it at their own pace prior to the start of their online classes.
- …give students a head start. A week before courses begin, students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the course expectations and introduce themselves to their instructors and fellow classmates. During this period, instructors lead community-building activities to engage students and set the tone for the weeks ahead. For instance, faculty ask each student to build a digital ePortfolio, an online profile that includes the student’s picture, biography, and résumé. Throughout their careers at NYU-SCPS, students use their ePortfolios as a place to curate examples of their course projects, papers, and other achievements.
- …provide opportunities to network. Faculty provide multiple opportunities for students to network and collaborate with their peers and experts from the field. these include team-building activities, discussions led by special guest experts, and group projects where students work on actual problems facing an organization.
- …use only text-based tools. Online courses must be more than posts to discussion forums. Instead, we take advantage of a wider ranging tool set. We encourage communication and collaboration through online workspaces that allow for synchronous and asynchronous voice, video, and text-based communications. This method is consistent with the research on learning styles—not all students communicate best through writing or learn best through reading.
- …let the end of class mean an end to learning. Learning and career development are lifelong activities. They don’t end when an online course is over. that’s why NYU-SCPS online courses never expire. Students continue to communicate with their former instructors and classmates and access course materials. Whether they’ve taken one course with us or earned a master’s degree, students will find their ePortfolios are always available. Students can even use these ePortfolios to demonstrate their competencies for career and networking opportunities.