PRINCIPLE #4: Effective online teachers teach and model ethical online interaction, while helping students develop digital literacy that will poise them for success.
Online instructors are poised to play a powerful role in the development of our students’ digital footprint… emphasizing and establishing a learning culture that promotes curiosity and critical examination of online resources, while fostering digital literacy and media fluency.
When I first started teaching online in 2001, technology training was slightly overwhelming. I had many questions, both from a student and instructor viewpoint. Having finally mastered one learning management system (Edvance360), we moved to Canvas – and started the learning process again. I was assured by our education technology specialist that I didn’t need to worry about the technology – just focus on delivering the content related to my discipline. Canvas has wonderful technical support for both instructors and students, so for many years I was teaching under the assumption, “not my problem” – I did not need to worry about technology training and practices.
After digging into the impact data/browsers/algorithms have on individuals, I learned how damaging this mindset can be. Given the complexity of the digital environment and the vulnerability of students to fall victim to persuasive digital architecture, I realized that I have the responsibility to teach web literacy in ALL of my classes.
In order to successfully engage students online, we must have an understanding of the 21st century learner.
With the influx of technology in our culture, students are either constantly connected to devices or are desiring to connect. As smartphones and other mobile devices have become more widespread, 26% of American adults now report that they go online “almost constantly,” up from 21% in 2015, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in January 2018. (Pew Research Center, 2018). While this data presents the frequency of these users, missing is an understanding of the context and quality of interactions. I know feel that it is the responsibility of the online instructor to increase awareness and equip students early in the semester with a basic understanding of digital ethics, literacy, and etiquette.
My teachings reflect this principle through the following ways:
Rules of Engagement: Netiquette 101
At the beginning of each semester students participate in a “Netiquette discussion” as part of the “Online Orientation and Fundamentals” module. The concept of “Netiquette” is presented and students are required to reflect and contribute their own rules to establish a safe and supportive learning community. Some have not considered rules of civility in an academic environment. Others equate online discussions with social media conversations. And don’t get me started on the grammar… IDK what texting is doing to our writing skills… OMG, LOL. Clearly outlining these expectations and equipping students with the tools to succeed can be empowering as they develop their digital language and habits.
Critical Thinking in the Digital World
Early in the semester students also complete a “Critical Thinking About Research” module where they learn to conduct academic research and examine the quality and credibility of sources. Throughout this process students are required to evaluate information from academic databases, current news publication, websites, and journals. These research exercises are then repeated throughout the semester and challenge students to think critically about information and question the credibility or authority of a wide range of sources.