"It is one thing to let new people into an ongoing party; the newcomer is the one who must struggle to fit in. It is another thing to change the party; now it is the educator and the institution that must struggle to fit in" (Kegan, 1994, p. 273). Kegan's quote brings life to a major issue in higher education today which is the concern that "the educational paradigm of the Industrial Age is no longer a valid learning model in the Digital Age" (Leonard, 2000, p. 23). As the demand for and popularity of online education continues to grow, teachers must learn how to "fit in" and adapt to this new and exciting pedagogy. Whether you are creating an online distance education course or simply want to use an online learning environment to supplement your classroom teaching, you will find Bender's Discussion-based Online Teaching to Enhance Student Learning to be a comprehensive, practical and easy-to-read guide for developing, sustaining, and evaluating online courses that promote student learning through thoughtful and engaging discussions.
Throughout this book, Bender draws on her knowledge as a researcher in the field of online education and on her experiences as an online teacher and trainer for faculty interested in developing online courses as she works to incorporate practical examples and real life experiences into her discussion of how theory, practice and assessment apply to the online learning environment. The primary focus of the book is to "switch emphasis from [End Page 101] the technical issues of online teaching to the human implications of teaching and learning by communicating through the Internet" (p. xv).
This book is divided into three parts. Part 1, "Theoretical Implications: Building a Body of Online Pedagogy," provides an overview of various learning theories and their application to the online learning environment. Part 2, "Practical Applications," offers ways in which the learning theories presented in Part 1 can be applied to various aspects of online course design and development. Part 3, "Assessment," provides a discussion of methods that can be used to explore the effectiveness of online learning environments designed to promote student learning.
One of the primary challenges in online education for both faculty and students is establishing a sense of belonging in the online course environment (Robinson, 2000). Unlike on-campus courses, members of an online course often are separated physically, which some argue hinders the learning process by removing the opportunity for students to actively engage with one another (Dreyfus, 2001). In the first chapter of this book, entitled "The Distance Factor," Bender refutes Dreyfus' claim by suggesting that a distinction needs to be made between physical, relational and transactional distance. Bender argues that it is an examination of the latter, transactional distance, "the distance between learner and teacher which is not merely geographic, but educational and psychological as well" (p. 6), that is most important in the learning process. Decreasing the transactional distance is a challenge for all teachers, but can be especially difficult for those who teach online courses. In chapter 2, applying McKeachie's (1978) teaching tips to the online environment, Bender suggests strategies for teachers who wish to decrease transactional distance in their online courses by describing the "optimal role of the online teacher." In the third and final chapter of this section, "Rethinking Learning Theory within the Online Class," Bender first provides a basic overview of learning theory, which is later used as a tool in exploring the impact that the text-based online environment has on students' ability to learn. When challenged with the questions related to technology's role in the online learning process, Bender stresses the need for both students and faculty who are participating in online courses to invest in learning how to use and understand the technology that is required for the course. However, the role of technology is not to serve as a substitute for other learning models, but instead as a supplement or as an alternative to learning for hybrid and completely online courses...