Not another essay! Essays are the most common way for teachers to test if their students understand the concepts that they have been learning. With essays being the most common assignment, you could imagine how dull and boring it can get for students. Luckily with new technology and the use of Online Learning, teachers are starting to explore different ways of engaging with students.
Take for instance, Linda Watts from the University of Washington who taught a course titled “The Beholding ‘I’: Social Observation as Contemplative Practice in the Helping Professions,” she was hesitant to teach this course via an Online Learning Institute at UW Bothell because she believed that the content relied heavily on face-to-face interactions. Watts was featured on the UW website under the Center For Teaching and Learning, for a short essay that she wrote, titled Mindfulness in Higher Education, in which she explains her experience teaching a course using online learning.
Online Learning, in its elimination of the face-to-face interactions, requires a different approach than a regular lecture based approach. How do you engage with students online and increase participation?
In her short essay, Watts explains how she used the Online Learning as an opportunity to try new things. In her efforts to “engage class members in exploring and contributing to the literary and journalistic documentary tradition of social observation”, Watts designed her assignments around promoting skills for helping professionals. Watts lists some of the assignments and skills in her short essay: dispositions associated with mindful practice, acuity of vision as relevant to mindful practice, relational abilities associated with the helping professions, familiarity of techniques associated with mindful practice, awareness of methods for self care in the helping professions. She lists photography, meditation, and guided visualization as possible assignments- don’t they sound better than writing an essay?
With Online Learning, the pathway through education is opening up and providing students more opportunities to challenge themselves and expand their thinking while gaining important skills. Looking to Watts as an example, it is also offering teachers the opportunity to explore other more engaging teaching methods. This sounds exactly like what going to school is supposed to be; we’re working collaboratively to learn critical information and we’re actually enjoying it.
So what do we say as students? Stop relying on only essays and explore creative ways to engage us in exploring and actively contributing in your course by using something that we know so well – technology. What are you waiting for?