For those who came of age in a traditional classroom environment, a digital classroom would seem to be one with greater distances between professors and students, and between students. In fact, technology offers so many new ways of holding class discussions that one could argue that the opposite is true. Online technologies are fostering more interactions and more meaningful and enriching learning engagements than ever before.
LIVE and Recorded Class Discussions
The Baylor learning management system (LMS) uses cooperative and social learning technologies to create a classroom community in which students come to know, engage with, and support one another. The platform enables professors to create a virtual classroom that not only simulates a traditional classroom, but allows more time and opportunity for students to engage with the professor and their peers.
In a traditional classroom, for example, asking questions may be limited because it is typically deemed rude to raise a hand while the professor is speaking. Online, however, students have the flexibility to ask questions in real time or after the lecture, via the message board. The professor or lecturer has the option to answer the question during the lecture, at its conclusion, or by sending the student an email or personal message.
In open Q&A sessions, students can use their microphones and webcams to pose questions to the lecturer and peers. Anyone can respond, enabling lively and open discussions. At Baylor, this literally brings a world of perspectives to each online student, as the student body is not only international, but composed of students diverse in ideas and experiences. Because the online programs are structured to support working professionals in different time zones, all lectures are recorded so students can access them at any time.
Online Discussion Boards
In the Baylor online MBA program, online discussion boards are integral to the experience, and for good reason. According to U.S. News & World Report, “Online faculty assign discussion board questions because there is an overwhelming amount of research saying students deeply learn and grow through frequent conversations and debates on salient academic topics. Researchers say the online forum promotes deeper engagement with subject matter and gives a voice to those feeling stigmatized.”
Online discussion boards are flexible, with many ways to engage, participate, receive feedback and support fellow students. Discussion board activities are integrated into each course, with the instructor typically posing a question or assigning a reading or viewing of a multimedia presentation. Professors often refer students to online discussion boards as a means of continuing the conversation from the day’s lesson. They may start the next class with a summary or highlights from the online discussion.
As part of an assignment, students are often required to post their thoughts as well as respond and elaborate on their peer’s postings. Students may also ask questions of the instructor and request feedback. At times, they may also submit links to online resources including articles, podcasts and videos. As with in-person discussions, Baylor professors moderate the tone and civility of the discussion to ensure fairness.
In some discussion forums, when someone posts a comment, everyone can immediately see and react to it. In what is known as “post first” discussions, interactions are withheld until the student submits a post, which unlocks the rest of the discussion. This allows a student to express him or herself first, without being influenced by the professor or peers.
All of these interactive activities allow students to immediately apply what they learn, which aids in retention of course material. The experience also prepares students to become stronger communicators and team players in the workplace, because the platform shares features with collaborative business software.
Baylor uses a best-in-class learning management system that integrates with innovative applications to support group projects. These connectivity tools not only replicate the experience of working on a team, they also offer options for video conferences, private and group messaging, and media sharing to enhance productivity. These tools have built-in accountability features to ensure all students pull their weight. Often, groups are pre-selected by the instructor, but there are times when students can choose their collaborators and form a complementary team.
The value of group projects includes working within a group dynamic and developing leadership and communication skills that are increasingly required by employers.
Advice for Engaging Online From Baylor Faculty
The value of the virtual class experience is best shared in the following advice from our faculty to current and prospective online students:
“Participate constantly. More than half of the final grade in my class is participation, but, also, I have found that students who participate in class discussions tend to do significantly better on the final exam.” — C. Scott Omo, Business Law Lecturer
“Many of your classmates will have great work experience from a variety of industries that will enable them to share rich insights with the rest of the class. So don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn from each other.” — Dr. Tim Kayworth, Professor of Information Systems
“Take advantage of your time here to develop your network through meaningful online discussion board conversations with your peers. And your peers can help support you through this MBA journey; we all need a little support. I learn so much from my students and their diverse business experiences.” — Dr. Emily Hunter, Associate Professor
Learn more about the Baylor online MBA program.