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Want to make online learning work? Turn students into the stars

The move by universities and colleges to make more courses available online often meets resistance from students who want to ensure they’re getting the best learning experience possible as they pay increasingly more for the privilege of a higher education, Wired reports.

That’s why it was a big surprise when a top Ivy League institution received glowing accolades for a recent online class.

Not only was there an 86 percent improvement in engagement over previous online courses, but students gave the class a 9-out-of-10 when it came to “quality expected from this university.” So, what made the difference? The answer may lie in students’ increasing comfort in the spotlight.

The Ivy League university took a unique approach to delivering its online course. Wanting to mimic the in-person classroom experience as much as possible, it not only delivered a live video feed of the professor but also of the 25 students — simultaneously.

YouTube, FaceTime and video chats are the norm for today’s students who grew up in the midst of a visual sharing revolution. Seeing videos of themselves in a live online class helps them feel more connected, while also enabling them to communicate visually with each other.

This not only fosters community and accountability but also the creation of a more conducive learning environment.

Professors in the program agreed. One wrote, “…unlike in class seminars, it is easy to point out who is/isn’t engaging…It’s actually easier to push students to have quality discussions and engage seriously with the material in the on-line [sic] format than it sometimes is in-class.”

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