In this digital age, online communication seems to foster only individualism and isolation. However, we also have the means to connect more personally in ways that would have never been possible before.

In Sherrod Library on Sept. 7, Alison Barton, associate professor and program coordinator in the Educational Foundations department, enlightened educators on just how important it is to maintain a connection with students in a workshop entitled “Using Online Discussions to Increase Student Engagement.”

“In an online class, you need to try to create some sense of community,” Barton said. “I can imagine, as a student, it feels better to feel like you have a community of learners out there — that you aren’t just hanging out there alone in cyberspace trying to learn this material.”

Barton has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Kentucky, a master’s in Clinical Psychology and a doctorate in the School of Psychology from Northern Illinois University.

Before coming to ETSU, Barton worked as a school psychologist in Henderson, Kentucky.

“Really, all I’ve ever wanted to do is impact children’s lives in a positive way,” Barton said. “[I] started to realize maybe one of the best ways I could do that is by becoming a professor and helping teach the people who are going to go out and teach those kids.”

The workshop is designed for professors to get a rundown on all of the ways to make online discussions in online courses more appealing for students.

There is an emphasis on critical thinking and preparing students for the real world — the sphere of teaching. Barton is attempting to share her expertise in knowing what works in online classes.

“My goal is to share the things I’ve learned with other faculty across campus so nobody is trying to reinvent the wheel,” Barton said. “It’s a big goal at ETSU to have good classes for our students and good graduation rates.”

There are quite a few of these workshops offered throughout the semester, led by Barton as well as other Education faculty members.

The Center for Teaching Excellence sponsors these events. The next workshop offered this month will be “Cheating Works: Strategies for Encouraging an Honest Culture” on Sept. 17 from 2-3:30 p.m. in Sherrod Library, room 433.

For a list of everything the CTE has to offer, visit