|OLOR Series:||ROLE Reviews|
|Original Publication Date:||15 March 2019|
This review was originally published in Research in Online Literacy, vol. 2, no. 1 (2019).
Stephanie Smith Budhai and Ke’Anna Brown Skipwith’s Best Practices in Engaging Online Learners Through Active and Experiential Learning Strategies is a thoughtful and useful book for online educators and instructional designers. The book discusses some familiar territory for those already ensconced in online teaching or course development, but it also offers the next steps in the discussion of online learning, addressing such topics as gamification and social media, experiential learning, and project and scenario-based learning. The book is a quick read with short chapters and an almost “greatest hits” kind of glossing of the chapter topics in the sense that as a reader I found myself craving more information. At the same time, however, the book does provide guidance and excellent suggestions for enhancing the learner experience in the online classroom, so the book is certainly worth reading.
The text is conveniently organized in six chapters. One particularly good chapter discusses assessment, chiefly in terms of assessing active and varied assignments. While instructional designers may push for “creative” and technologically-based assignments, many online instructors are challenged by assessing work that is not in the form of tests, quizzes, or essays. Budhai and Skipwith provide terrific examples of different ways to assess learners to include the nomenclature used (e.g., reading check versus quiz), portfolios, self-assessments, role playing, and field interviews. In many instances, faculty are hesitant to stray too far from what they are accustomed to because they are unsure of how to assess varied assignments or what tools are available. Additionally, the chapter provides information on actual assessment tools, such as Google Forms, Survey Monkey, VoiceThread, and Interactive Rubrics, making it easy for those interested to follow up accordingly.
What I appreciated most in the book were the ideas presented that helped to set the stage for implementation. For example, in Chapter 5, the authors discuss ways to build social presence so that learners had ample opportunities to engage with course concepts and have meaningful experiences interacting with each other. To this end, the authors discuss the notion of a group project involving multiple students, which poses challenges not only for the students who largely work asynchronously but also for the instructors who have to manage, support, and assess such work. Budhai and Skipwith provide the blue print for implementing such a project in one’s course and discuss such considerations as the design, providing feedback, technology tools, communication, sharing materials, and presenting. Though the discussion of each part is fairly brief, there is still enough information provided that an instructor would have guidance and direction in creating such a collaborative project.
The book does have moments where clunky writing and awkward phrasing distract the reader from the content. I had to wonder at times to what degree the text had been read for clarity of expression as there are some sentences that hit off notes and should have been easy to catch. At other times, the discussion was rather thin and may not be substantive enough for some readers. However, despite these shortcomings, Best Practices in Engaging Online Learners Through Active and Experiential Learning Strategies is a highly readable book that will inspire online instructors and instructional designers with its insights and suggestions for developing online courses and engaging learners.
Stephanie Smith Budhai and Ke’Anna Brown Skipwith. 2017. New York, NY: Routledge. [ISBN 978-1-138-67068-6. 100 pages including index, US$36.95 (softcover).]
[O]ffers the next steps in the discussion of online learning, addressing such topics as gamification and social media, experiential learning, and project and scenario-based learning.