The Missouri Reader WINTER ISSUE Vol. 44, Issue 1 - Page 24

Special Selection

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SPECIAL SECTION- DIFFERENTIATION

Figure 1

Online learning is not just an idea to consider anymore, digital learning is an essential component of K-12 students’ learning. As teachers, it is important to create a positive virtual learning environment to engage students and their families in the learning without allowing them to feel overwhelmed by the process. Online learners and their family support systems need structure in their coursework to support student engagement and success.

Notably, teachers understand and support various scenarios and aspects of teaching as they modify instruction to support the needs of their students. Understandably, this new era of online learning has created a plethora of concerns. Justifiably, social, and academic learning opportunities should challenge students to take advantage of online learning opportunities in a positive and engaging platform. Chantal, R., Amiet, D. et al, (2017) offer, “it is also important to recognize the unique competencies required for online teaching success” (p. 4). Online learning techniques should be easily understood, implemented and have a positive impact on students’ success. As today’s teachers forge a new plan to include positive virtual learning experiences for all students, this article provides encouragement and recommendations to consider - What really works?

Online Learners Need Solid Course Structure

Online learners need solid structure to stay engaged and focused on the course assignments and content. Specifically, creating courses to promote student achievement and engagement in a virtual environment “is more complex than merely translating written materials to an online format (Chantal, R., Amiet, D. et al, 2017, p. 3). The online course component structure of the work may include various discussion forums, quizzes, chats, surveys, meeting sites, or blogs. As teachers consider the structure of their coursework, some specific recommendations are included here to support the instructional plan for solid course structure.

To create a virtual learning environment, the Google Dashboard provides many options for teachers. Google Classroom (https://edu.google.com/products/classroom/?modal_active=none) provides structural help to teachers as they organize an online class. Once created, students are invited to join the class so no information is collected on the student by a third party. This setting provides a platform for various stakeholders to engage students in a positive learning community. Here teachers can address all areas of a virtual classroom, such as posting assignments and providing students with time sensitive feedback. Though the grading feature and the ability to assign all programs through Google Classroom are lacking, this domain has many features that educators find attractive and useful on a daily basis. For example, attention to students’ engagement with the learning process could be addressed when they are offered opportunities to include personalized comments or video clips in the Google Classroom setting to highlight their thinking.

Should the instructor want to include various digital quizzes, Google Forms (https://docs.google.com/forms/u/0/?tgif=d) can provide data to discover students’ levels of content understanding. Luckily, the ease of creating and evaluating a quiz or survey outweighs the uncertainty a teacher might have caused by not having a firm understanding of the Google platform. With a multitude of online tutorials, even novice instructors can determine the steps to understanding the nuances of Google. In addition, this easy-to-grade assessment tool may encourage students to create their own quizzes as part of a virtual study group. This platform provides various levels of instructional support and student engagement.

As instruction necessitates an every-pupil-response event in the virtual setting, the Panopto Video link (www.panopto.com) might be an appropriate option. Opportunities for viewing of the gathering are live stream, recorded, hosted, and shared all with a video-platform. This type of structure may invite a ‘live’ participation approach for digital course objectives as it promotes student-to-student interaction in real time and allows teachers to modify their instruction to accommodate learning objectives and goals. Though the initial setup might be challenging for a novice virtual instructor, once created, this focus encourages students to take ownership and engage in the learning experience as they share their ideas. When recorded, these sessions provide openings for students to review the content and study for future assessments.

Website creations (such as https://www.weebly.com/websites) offer teachers the opportunity to implement many technological strategies to create an online virtual community of learners. Because a classroom website can house any tool from assignments to blogs to visual

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Creating a Positive Virtual Learning Environment: What Really Works?

by

Julie A. Hentges and Kristina Schuler

Conducting a Writing Workshop

Increased time to write with a focus on the strategies of pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing are linked to increased writing quality (Graham & Harris, 2016). Unfortunately, students tend to demonstrate a decrease in enthusiasm for writing from early childhood to middle school and high school, due to less time to write and less engaging writing opportunities (Graham & Perin, 2007) so it is imperative to engage students in workshops that are personally and culturally meaningful. We recommend that it should be evident that multicultural literature is being read, enjoyed and analyzed across the curriculum. Writing workshops provide opportunities for lively inquiry and discussion about texts with diverse characters, settings, and cultures (Alexander, 2018).

Conversations

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