From Faculty Learning Day 2012: Building Community in Online, Blended, and Face-to-Face

We just had our second Faculty Learning Day on the 28th of July, Saturday. This series of post is a quick round up of what I have learnt from the three sessions. If you missed the event or if you want to review the sessions, we will be uploading the videos. We will keep you posted on the video upload. You can also check out  at

The key-note speaker for the event was Professor John Boyer and Ms Katie Pritchard from Virginia Tech. And the topic was:  Building Community in Online, Blended, and Face-to-Face

Prof John Boyer started out with what is student engagement and led us on to how we can engage students and build communities using the social media tools.Here are my key-take-aways…

1) Engaging students is not about getting students to react. Asking questions and demanding an answer, is essentially getting students to react. Engaging students is about inspiring students to be willingly engaged such that they want to participate.

2) Student engagement is about engaging the students beyond the lecture time.It is not just about delivering a good lecture/lesson but it is about making the students think about the subject  before, during and long after the class. 

3) Student engagement is about building community. It is about getting students to interact with each other such that they work with each other,  help and look out for each other.

4) Student engagement is about collaborative work.

Here is his strategy for building a community of learners:  the key is to create a suitable learning environment for such interaction and collaboration, to use the same language to communicate and to facilitate the communication. In other words, the strategy is to encourage than force. And one way to communicate with the students and speak the same language is to harness the potential of  the web 2.0/social media  tools to promote student engagement.

So, what are some of the tools that we can use to speak the same language as the students? The reality is there are countless . Prof. John had pointed out some of those he uses and their purposes.

 Facebook- To connect and inform students

Ustream- For Delivering content/consultation through video and online chats

SpreeCast- For Delivering content/consultation through video and online chats

Twitter- For class participation and polling

Poll Everywhere- For polling

While there are a diverse range of tools, what seems important  is the clarity in deciding what tools to use, why and how to use (and also when).

In the subsequent posts I hope to introduce some of these tools. I am also aware that some of you may already be using these tools in your classroom and therefore you are likely to be the experts in this. So hope that you can share with us on what tools you are using and for what purpose.  We will compile and share the information to benefit all of us. So do give your inputs in this below link:


About tlcunisim

This is the TLC UniSIM blog: the virtual community space for associates and faculty members to share ideas on teaching and learning. This blog is edited by Dr. Abdel Halim Sykes, Lecturer, Teaching and Learning Centre, SIM University, Singapore.
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5 Responses to From Faculty Learning Day 2012: Building Community in Online, Blended, and Face-to-Face

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  2. It is truely a revolutionary idea to engage the students.
    Our education system has always been “I teach and you listen” (just visual and auditory as in Neil Fleming’s VAK/VARK model) and that does not work for all students.

    There are many studies on how to categories the different learning styles:

    It seems that a recent research into using learning systems:
    indicates that “training based on Conscientious Achievement increases performance but that training based on Sensation Seeking does not”. This may provide a guide on how we can fashion Uni SIM’s way of delivering knowledge to help our students learn better?

    Another thing to note, maybe helping the students to profile their own learning style may help them to understand themselves better and therefore learn better in the longer term?

    Just throwing some ideas in the mix, in hope to set off some “sparks”.

  3. One other thing, just before we go to the extreme in catergorising every student, here is a warning against that:

  4. tlcunisim says:

    Interesting paper. Thanks for that. I think that developing a pedagogically adaptive system based on learning style is not straight forward. There are many factors to consider such as individual differences and different learning styles. There could be infinite possibilities. It is difficult to come up with a system that is adaptive to infinite possibilities. And there may be other interfering factors that affect learning styles. Also these factors may change with time. So I am not sure if it is pragmatic to use learning style as the basis of pedagogy even though theoretically/logically it sounds reasonable.

  5. Agree with you totally that it is not quite possible to develop a system that is adaptive to infinite possiblities and that wasn’t the message I’m trying to put across.

    I believe students generally are trying to find out “how to acheive excellence” in their studies.

    What I’m suggesting is to examine whether there are better ways to transefer knowledge from teacher to students. To provide a better “scaffolding” to guide the students to want to learn more about the subject at hand. One way that works for a particular subject may not work for another. i.e. the way to learn math is different from how to learn English, which is different from how you learn science, etc.

    I believe most of us want to learn something either becasue we feel it is important to us or the subject is something that interest us. Both of which must be decided by ourselves but can be influenced to a certain degree by our environment. And “how to influence” the student’s interest in the subject matter at hand is the real challenge.

    I believe quizzes/test has been used for a long time to guage a student’s knowledge. But what is the main objective in learning? Is it to impart the students with knowledge or to coerce them into learning? If the students need to pass the quizzes/test in order to proof that they have the knowledge, it would be likely that we’re going to achieve the latter objective instead. What if the quizzes are used in a “game” setting where the students goes through finding “nuggets” of knowledge. When they are “ready” they take the quiz to move onto the next “chapter”.

    I would like to share an example of how I learnt to type (more than 20 years ago now). Initially, I had a trained typist to try teach me using the standard typist course ware. It was a lot of hard work and I soon gave up. But I love to work with computers and I believe that it would be more efficient if I know how to type “properly”. So by chance I found “Typing Tutor”, a computer application that teaches to type with the same drilling methods of the standard typist course ware. The plus point is that there is a game that is similar to “space invadars” where the “invaders” were letters approaching and you need to type the right letter to eliminate them. This game increases in difficulty (with more letters) as you progress in the course of learning to type. That made learning to type fun and eventually I learnt to type properly (enough).

    Again, I’m not suggesting to make games to help students to learn but rather to re-evaluate the way knowledge is transfered to the students today and examine how to include other ways of “how we acquire knowledge”. We learn through our senses and if the teaching system can use as many of those senses to teach, we are probably going to reach a wider “audience”.

    PS: For those who don’t know what “space invaders” game looked like, here is a simple version:

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