Student journals as instructor-learner interaction

In past semesters, I’ve used the quiz functionality in Blackboard Learn to ask my students for weekly feedback. I ask them how the course is going and what is working for them and what isn’t work. I also ask them what their ah-ha moments were for the week. This serves two purposes. It tells me as the instructor what is resonating with students and what isn’t working, and it gives the students an opportunity to reflect on the lessons of the week which helps to deepen their learning. Using the quiz functionality felt a little like a hack – I provided commentary and feedback that required students to go through a convoluted process to read my feedback.

This semester I decided to try something different. Rather than using the quiz functionality, I implemented journals using the blackboard learn journal functionality. I am loving it. Students are writing 2-4 paragraphs about the class. They are doing much deeper reflections, connecting the content to their lives outside the classroom. But even more important, they are using the journals to have a 1:1 dialog with me. Students are asking me questions that sometimes go well beyond the scope of the class – such that it already feels like a real connection. I feel like I’ll get to know my students better – but they will also get to know me better.

The journal functionality isn’t completely user-friendly from an instructor perspective – like pretty much everything in Blackboard Learn – but once you figure it out, it is actually not bad. I am definitely spending more time than I did with the quiz because students are writing more, reflecting more, and asking more questions. I think it is definitely a way to enhance instructor-learner interactions in an online course.

I did debate the benefits of journals versus blogs. The journal functionality means it is a private conversation between the student and me. A blog (even within BBL) would mean that students would be sharing with each other more – but they already do that in discussion forums and within the synchronous sessions. So, the discussion forums and breakout rooms in sync sessions provide opportunities for learner-learner interaction. The journal provides an opportunity for enhanced learner-instructor interaction.

What things do you do in your online classes to enhance learner-instructor interaction?

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