One of the challenges of teaching an online course is to get students involved with the content beyond simply reading and discussing it. When students are separated from the instructor and each other by distance and time, how can they be effectively guided in arranging, participating in, and completing service-learning experiences? The presenter will share instructional strategies he has utilized to rise above such challenges.
Service Learning at a Distance: Engaging Online Learners in Applying Their Knowledge and Skills to Help Others
Purpose of the Presentation: One of the challenges of teaching an online course is to get students involved with the content beyond simply reading and discussing it. When students are separated from the instructor and each other by distance and time, how can they be effectively guided in arranging, participating in, and completing service-learning experiences? The presenter will share instructional strategies he has utilized to rise above such challenges.
Target Audience: Higher education faculty, but all are welcome.
Instructional Context: The presenter is a professor in the College of Education and Human Development at Southern Utah University, Cedar City, Utah. The college offers six courses for the endorsement of content-area teachers (whether pre-service or in-service) in teaching English as a second language (ESL). The program is designed to help them develop knowledge, skills, and dispositions associated with adapting, designing, preparing, and providing instruction to meet the academic, linguistic, and social needs of ESL learners in K-12 schools. Many of the university students who are interested in obtaining this ESL endorsement work full time, and some live at a great distance from the university, so they are not able to attend a traditional, face-to-face class; therefore, the program is offered as an e-learning opportunity using the Blackboard Learning System to provide online, virtual classrooms. The service-learning experience associated with several of the courses requires students to find non-native English speakers in their own geographical area and provide them with tutoring.
Presentation Plan and Objectives: Out of the 45 minutes available for this presentation, the first 20 minutes will be used to describe the context of the investigation: the courses, the instructional materials used (case studies, multimedia, practical experiences, and discussion activities), the online learners and instructor, and the various approaches used to engage learners with the content of the course and to apply their recently acquired knowledge and skills in a service-learning experience. During the next 15 minutes, the methods and results of the investigation will be explained and discussed. The remaining 10 minutes will be used for participants’ questions and discussion, sharing of their ideas and experiences, and ideas for future investigations.
Practical Applications: Participants of this proposed session will hear about and see the presenter’s processes and the end results of selecting high-quality instructional materials (including case studies, multimedia, practical experiences, and discussion activities) that were originally designed for face-to-face delivery and adapting them so that they could be effectively implemented in a completely online learning environment to engage the learners with the content of the course, with each other, and with English language learners. The participants and the presenter will gain useful insights from one another as they discuss successes and failures in actual efforts to engage online learners with case studies, multimedia, discussion activities, practical experiences, and service-learning experiences.
Relationship to the Conference Theme: Teaching with technology in an online learning environment can be made more effective by implementing instructional strategies that engage learners with the content and give them opportunities to apply what they have learned in service to others.
Information to Support What is Advocated: Examples of the instructional materials utilized, the strategies implemented in several online ESL endorsement courses, the theoretical base, and data gathered from three years of the presenter teaching these courses will be shared during the presentation.
Tom Cunningham, professor of education, Southern Utah University, Cedar City, UT. Degrees: dual-major B.A., linguistics and Spanish (BYU, 1984); M.A., teaching English as a second language (BYU, 1986); Ph.D., instructional technology (USU, 1994). Career as teacher started at LDS Missionary Training Center, teaching Spanish (4 years). Taught ESL (7 years total) at Provo Adult High School, BYU, BYU-Hawaii, and USU. Faculty member at SUU since 1994 in various roles. For 8 years in Library, taught instructional technology and library media courses, directed SUU’s faculty development program, and served as reference librarian, library instruction coordinator, and collection development specialist. Next 3 years, taught information systems courses, e.g., multimedia production, systems analysis and design, and IS project management for School of Business and College of Computing, Integrated Engineering, and Technology. Since fall 2005, has been teaching instructional technology and ESL teacher training courses in SUU’s College of Education and Human Development.