Instructional-Design-Live#17 2010-05-07 John Graves: Engaging Online Learners in the Early Stages of Online Courses

John Graves, the lead faculty in the Master of Science in Science Education program at Montana State University, Bozeman, spends 30 minutes sharing over a decade of expertise in the design and delivery of online courses. John touches on a number of key considerations in terms of engaging learners in the early stages of an online course:

  • providing personal information
  • making audio introductions available
  • being available to respond to students all the time
  • personalizing feedback and developing rapport

To give you a sense of how his courses have been received, here is a quote from one of his students: 


John Graves is one of the best online professors I've ever had. He provides valuable feedback for assignments within a few days of the due date. His class is very organized and it is clear what your responsibilties are. He is always available for questions and spends a good deal of time making sure that we know what is going on." 

Available on the Web

John Graves' rubrics

Chat Transcript


00:06 - Peggy George
like that!! still need a "kid fix" :-)

00:27 - Jennifer Maddrell 1
oh, la, la!

00:28 - Peggy George

01:21 - Jennifer Maddrell 1
I have a siren in background ... life in the city :)

01:58 - Peggy George
welcome John!!

03:20 - Jennifer Maddrell 1
John ... what do you do as a "kickoff" activity for your online classes? (if any?)

04:23 - Robert

05:41 - Jennifer Maddrell 1
I do that at conferences, too :)

05:49 - Peggy George
that's always such a fun thing to hear!!-recognize your voice :-)

05:57 - Jennifer Maddrell 1
recognize the voice vs the face

06:05 - Peggy George
me too Jen!

07:34 - Peggy George
that's such a good suggestion because it's much easier to build a learning community with people who know each other--the personal information really helps

07:56 - Joni
Although we are talking about what to do in the first week, I find it helpful to do those sorts of connection activities throughout the course, not just in the first week.

08:14 - Linda U
serious echo started suddenly...

08:24 - Robert
John, the audio has a slight delay --I thik we will take a little pause and test the audio again...

09:26 - Joni
I adopt of a cohort of students who have already been together in online I'm the new person in the mix. So, instead of typical bio activities, I do a lot of other types of activities: sharing their superhero moniker and powers, creating a playlist that is a soundtrack of their lives, creating a digital story with 5 photos and 350 words...

10:04 - Jennifer Maddrell 1
that sounds a lot better

11:11 - Mary
I'm good for now....

11:12 - Cammy Bean
Could you tell us more about the scavneger hunt now that we have good audio?

11:18 - Mary
would just like to hear a bit more first.

11:28 - Peggy George
there are so many more options available online :-)

12:34 - Joni
I have found scavenger hunts to be very helpful at the start of the class.

12:45 - Robert
Some more suggestions for icebreakers here:

12:52 - Cammy Bean
I loe that idea.

13:02 - Jennifer Maddrell 1
do you find a difference based on age of students?

13:16 - Jennifer Maddrell 1
is one group more / less likely to bond?

13:26 - Peggy George
I've been saving icebreaker ideas for years--always good to have alternatives ready :-)

13:41 - Mary
Do your students move through the MS program as a cohort group? (All in the same classes?)

14:45 - Jennifer Maddrell 1
do you have suggestions to bring in adult students' job / life experiences to engage students?

15:53 - Cammy Bean
Is the FB privacy storm of late an issue?

17:28 - Joni
I think when you know they know each other (like a cohort), you need to really mix up the connection activities so they learn something new about each other than they've discovered before.

18:14 - Peggy George
good point Joni

20:35 - Marlene
John, did you say the students submit weekly discussion rubrics? And if so, could you explain this further.

20:45 - Peggy George
have you ever seen any of the Thiagi Games? he has done some amazing Elluminate webinars using games to engage learners and they are well worth exploring. They aren't all designed for online but are easily modified (as he demonstrated).

21:05 - Peggy George

21:20 - Joni
Thiagi's stuff is great, Peggy, lots to repurpose from him.

21:25 - Peggy George
that audio problem tends to be either a microphone problem or bandwidth problem

22:03 - Peggy George
I have seen the audio problem before and turning mic on/off sometimes helps.

22:38 - Robert
Thanks Peggy

22:39 - Peggy George
I love that you can use the Thiagi activities with many content areas!!

23:02 - Peggy George
would love to see the rubric John

23:03 - Marlene
I'd like to see that rubric, and thanks, John.

23:04 - Jennifer Maddrell 1
that would be great ...

25:14 - Peggy George
whenever you have them engaged in the online activities as collaborators and problem solvers you get to know them well too--doesn't just have to be sharing personal information.

26:20 - Robert
That's a good pint

26:27 - Robert
point ;-) It's Friday

27:01 - Peggy George
pint works for me :-)

28:38 - Peggy George
I think the quality of the work improves naturally when it is posted online for all to see--authentic assessment

28:52 - Joni
I agree with that, Peggy. I find that my students want attention to social presence to be tied to the work and their processing of the content.

28:56 - Robert

30:00 - Joni
I agree with that too, Peggy. :-) Death to the dropbox is a motto of colleagues here. We want students to own their work, and share it with colleagues...even if the community is bounded by the course shell.

30:42 - Peggy George
yes! I think they value that even more than an "official" assessment. Although there are still too many students that are doing just what is required for the grade (not the learning)

31:00 - Cammy Bean
Thanks, John!

31:08 - Joni
My students like opportunities to connect with me as an expert, so I do a "Just Ask Zoltar" activity that allows them to do that.

31:13 - Peggy George
thank you John!! you're a great role model for us!! wonderful ideas!

31:32 - Mr. Boyd
ciao dude!

31:33 - Peggy George
come back again John!!!

31:33 - Joni
Have a great weekend everyone!

31:36 - Patti Steinmuller
Thanks John!

31:47 - Peggy George
thanks Robert, Jen, Joni and all!!

31:55 - Jennifer Maddrell 1
thank you!