I kind of like what jsarnett wrote in his blog about front row/back row students, “I’m sure most professors can figure out who the front row and back row students are without ever actually meeting them face to face” But, the thing about online education is that all students must write to participate. As rccola wrote on the subject, “I’m sure that in some courses, such as this one, the back row students can quickly be forced to the front of the room. Because we all know that the front of the room is where most of the action takes place and in an on-line course you’ve got to keep up with the action in order to learn.”
Some of my thoughts for online teachers dealing with this facet of education is that they should give crystal clear directions, immediately straighten out misunderstandings, and have high expectations for every student. In short, they should expect every student to write. Participation should be a requirement for the course and count as a substantial part of the overall grade. To engage the student, as always, we should make the material relevant and interesting to them. Our blogs are a way of making sure that we participate.
The “front row/back row” dynamic might be reduced in the online environment. Some students may perform better in a class without a teacher or other students around them. They may feel freer and better able to take charge of their education if they don’t have to compete with other students on planes other than the academic topics being covered. That is, they may not feel intimidated by peers who are louder or more aggressive.