Monday, December 28, 2015

How to Showcase Creativity in Online Classes

One of the downfalls that many instructors find with teaching online classes is the sterile nature that these courses seem to take on.  Though interaction still takes place through the technological interaction of online classes, instructors often miss some of the creativity that students display in face-to-face classrooms.  There’s no doubt that there are several positive things about having a face-to-face environment.  With this sort of atmosphere, students are able to demonstrate their creativity through role-playing, leading discussions, giving presentations or speeches, or participating in lively debates (just to name a few).  In online classes, these things are instead converted to text on screen as a way of assessing the learning thought processes that are taking place.

According to Dr. Oliver Dreon, a professor at Millersville University of Pennsylvania, despite this usual recycling of instruction to response via text, online classrooms can still be a space that supports and showcases student creativity.  He states, “The learning management system can become a place where students expand their learning beyond traditional online means.”  How, you ask?

Here are some ways to better foster creativity in your online classroom.

  • Consider your classroom as a common meeting spot.  Often times, instructors view the content area of their online course to be the most significant.  After all, this is where you post all of the materials you’d like students to access in order to prepare for responses, study for tests, and demonstrate learning.  However, even though this is an important aspect of your class site, it shouldn’t be considered the most important.  Instead, consider the discussion tab of your online class as a more creative way of getting students to interact with material and with each other through discussion of specific issues, areas of confusion, or places of deeper connection.  You might even consider using discussion threads as a means for students to demonstrate their thoughts and ideas via more than just text.  Videos, podcasts, slideshows, and other creative tools can be uploaded to a group discussion board for students to demonstrate their creativity.
  • Create open-ended assignments.  By limiting your assignment requirements to papers and written responses, you are limiting your students’ ability to use their creativity. Consider utilizing other forms of response like videos, narrated animations, or photos.  Provide a choice for students to complete assignments in a variety of different ways so as not to leave any creative avenues restricted.  Consider providing these choices for major assessments such as quizzes and tests as well as minor ones like reading responses and critical thinking posts.
  •  Focus on the content.  Keep in mind that even though you are allowing students to showcase their creativity in a more flexible way, you shouldn't be distracted by the medium they may choose.  Keep your content requirements clear by providing a rubric or a checklist of areas you'd like students to explore.  Follow that same checklist when you are reviewing their projects for grading later on.  Even though it seems obvious, it can be very easy to overlook key elements of learning when faced with an impressive display of creativity.
Tip Provided By: Jessica Moser
Adapted from Magna Publications

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