Who was your favorite teacher? Almost everyone can recall at least one teacher who really made a difference. And usually that teacher was someone who really reached out, who made a connection with you, who changed up the lecture-and-listen format of class and helped you connect with other students, or to the subject matter in a meaningful, personal way.
Research demonstrates that a sense of social connection can improve learning. In fact, activities that bring students together -- like peer tutoring and cooperative learning -- have shown a marked increase of up to 75% greater performance on assessments. Teachers who support student-centered learning in this way often make a bigger impact on students’ lives and education than teachers who remain aloof or apart from their students.
A sense of separation from a teacher (and other students) can happen pretty easily in an online environment. It can take a special effort on the part of online teachers to become a “favorite teacher”. David Wiley noted that the impersonal nature of the web is not only easy to slip into, it is sometimes designed into the way LMSs direct pedagogy:
“With the pile of philosophical, conceptual, and empirical evidence showing the social nature of learning and the importance of human relationships (particularly the relationship between teacher and student) in learning and wellbeing, why are we working so hard to automate away any opportunity for these relationships to exist?”
But the truth is that there are a myriad of ways that teachers and students can create digital connections in online classes. A new paper from the Research and Education Department -- “Increased Social Connectedness through Digital Peer Learning” -- explores several ways that Canvas supports social learning, including:
From our report:
“Research shows these interactive and community-building activities positively impact student satisfaction and success. More importantly, these activities have documented success with improving learning outcomes. Canvas has unique capabilities that enable peer learning practices, such as peer tutoring, reciprocal teaching, and cooperative learning; and it can make the digital learning environment more meaningful for student-teacher connectedness.”
We’re releasing this work on the heels of our Student-centered Learning Glossary, which outlines the wide array of choices teachers have in designing creative, student-centered learning exercises. Both the glossary and our social connectedness white paper--as well as other work on online course design and lossless learning--can be found on CanvasLMS.com by visiting the “Stories” section of our K-12 and Higher Ed pages.
Keep Learning, Jared Stein VP of Research and Education