Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Module 4 EDUC 8842: Engaging Learners with New Strategies and Tools

Siemens, Anderson and Durrington suggested instructional strategies for engaging online students and suggested tools for structuring classroom environments that will improve teaching and learning experiences.  Siemens in his podcast, for example, spoke of inherent issues with online learning where students have web access to all the material/resources that the teacher has, and that teachers should not to expect students to navigate effectively through all these resources without some guidance (Learnonline, 2007). Siemens’ solution to these problems was curatorial teaching. Anderson (2008) on the other hand, believed that to fully engage learners online, there need to be sufficient levels of three components of presences in online learning environments: social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence (p.344).  Based on this notion, Anderson (2008) constructed the Community of Inquiry model. Adding to this body of knowledge and resources to improve online teaching and learning, Durrington, Berryhill & Swafford (2006) suggested strategies for increasing student interactivity via structured learning environment, discussions, peer-to-peer interactions, and problem-based learning.  The following is a graphical display of these instructional strategies for engaging learners in distance education. Please note that there are common characteristics shared between strategies surrounding:
For instance, Siemen’s curatorial teaching (with web artifacts) is present is all three areas. Also, Durrington et al. (2006) asynchronous mediated discussion strategies and student mediated discussion are present in both content and communication segments.

Figure 1. Graphical organizer depicting instructional strategies for engaging learners in distance education.

Bringing Learners’ Technological into Distance Education

Online tools are in abundance today, aiding interactions between co-workers, family and friends. Many of these online tools that learners use outside the classroom on a social level can also be used in distance education to help students collaborate and construct knowledge. For instance, virtual bookmarks can be shared among learners who are using digital books. Examples, of virtual bookmarks are Delicious or Diigo. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Friendster, LinkedIn and MySpace can also be brought over into online courses of which peers will be allowed to post photos, videos, and comments as a means of connecting and networking online. Google offers practical collaborative tools such as Google Docs and Google groups.  Synchronous communication can occur with most of these tools, which can improve authentic learning. Twitter, live video streaming and podcasting are good examples of this. Online learners already possess computers and Internet connection to become engaged in all these activities, the only missing element here is an incorporation of these tools within the learning platform.


Anderson, T. (Ed.). (2008). The theory and practice of online learning (2nd ed.). Edmonton, AB: Athabasca University Press.
Durrington, V. A., Berryhill, A., & Swafford, J. (2006). Strategies for enhancing student interactivity in an online environment. College Teaching, 54(1), 190−193.
Learnonline (2007). Ten minute lecture – George Siemens – curatorial teaching. Retrieved from


  1. Hi Ena,
    You noted that virtual bookmarks are shared through sites like Delicious and Diigo of people who use digital books. What are the benefits of sharing these types of virtual bookmarks for classroom use? This is the first time I have heard of Delicious and Diigo—where have I been! Do you know of some classroom strategies for making use of these?

    Sanjay Sharma

  2. Hi Sanjay,

    Thank you for your response. Virtual bookmarks can be used for student-to-student collaboration as they construct their knowledge. Another example of student-to-student collaboration and knowledge construction is shared highlights within digital books. I personally have benefited from this while reading our course text via my Kindle. In turn, I have also shared highlights with Kindle users that I considered to be important. What are your thoughts on shared highlights among distance educational learners? Do you think that course readings should be formatted in a manner that will allow students to easily highlight important sections and share amongst each other?


  3. Hi Ena.

    Like Sanjay, I had a question about virtual bookmarks. Prior to this module I had never heard of them. So am I correct in assuming that these virtual bookmark sites allow students to note page numbers/content/etc. about the book they are reading and share that information via the virtual bookmark tool? Thanks for any feedback. I'm just a little fuzzy on the functionality and the application of such a tool.



  4. Hi Jeanna,

    I personally have never used virtual bookmarks. I have only shared highlights from virtual books. Delicious bookmarks, for example,will allow a person to search for friends who also use Delicious Bookmarks. This program is a Firefox add-on, however, one would require to also have a Yahoo email address account. Once you locate friends on the Delicious network, you have access to all their shared bookmarks. You can adjust privacy levels if you don't want to share all your sites with others. For more information see: