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Enthusiasm Engagement and Motivation  

In another thread Selby Cull asked a question that is large enough to warrant its own thread:

"I've used online components in my in-person classes, but so far have not taught a class entirely online.

I'm interested in hearing from those of you who do: how do you inspire enthusiasm for your subject matter while teaching an online course? How do you establish good connections with students who you never meet face-to-face?"

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I start off the course with having the student's introduce themselves to everyone in the class using the discussion forum. I respond to each student's post with an email that I try to make as personal as possible. That generally starts up conversations with students about their dogs, kids, jobs, and so forth. I then try to continue these conversations with them throughout the whole semester. I just try to be as open and understanding as possible with them.

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This is particularly interesting to me. I was turned down on an NSF proposal because reviewers assumed students with laptops would never stay on task. The results were both part expected and part unexpected. Bottom line is computers DO raise distraction factor but well-designed "deliberate" use of technology actually increases attentiveness and engagement. I'm attaching a paper I recently published in "Computers in Education" Journal on this topic.

Attachments:

Deliberate Engagement of Laptops in Large Lecture Classes (Acrobat (PDF) 3.5MB Jun23 10)

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I find myself using liberal exclamation points and emoticons. I know that sounds cheesy, but I am an upbeat person anyway, so I do think that comes across online. Student evaluations reflect the fact that I am enthusiastic, so it must be getting through. Even the way you choose your sentences can make a big difference.

Such as:
Let me know if you've got questions.

vs.

I'm happy to help with your questions. It's best if you can touch base well before the deadline so we can sort through any questions before the weekend. (Our assignments are due on Sundays and I'm not chained to email on weekends!)

I like Kelly's approach too; I do something very similar and I use the information they share in the icebreaker discussion to open a dialog. Often we have side conversations about gardening, travel or other "off-topic" common interests.

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I agree wholeheartedly that the way you phrase your request gets more response. I have trained myself to say "What questions do you have?" rather than "Are there any questions?"

I was amazed at how quickly I bought into the community online with the ice breaker. I'm going to have to create one of those things for my upcoming online class.

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I had been planning to have my students create a powerpoint about themselves, but now I think that is too static.

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Ann - agreed a ppt is too static. I'd suggest a webpage, blog or some other fun format. I have heard of this as a great first assignment but I have not tried it.

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I use an icebreaker discussion activity where students post their most vivid ocean memory or thought (posts can be heart-warning and heart-wrenching).

I use online video clips to engage students.

Have students be involved in the research experience, rather than listening only to the results.

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