What do learners DO online?

This blog post  continues to explore ‘online taught’, one of the four components in our new teaching and learning models. See earlier posts, entitled Remember when you were at Uni and Teacher Presence Online.

This post explores ‘online taught’ in relation to student online activity, and what our role is as teachers to support this. Below are some examples of activities that learners might do online and how we, as teachers, facilitate learning.

We mediate input

Flipping the classroom is ideal for blended classes. You can give students online input before they come to the class so that when they come together face-to-face, conversations can be deeper and you can check on concepts and explore the knowledge that students have already constructed about a topic. Your role as teacher is to curate or create opportunities for learners to engage with material. You might direct them to different ways of accessing already existing online material in relation to different learning styles. You might create a video in Echo360 for students to watch before they come to class.  You might use Zaption to insert questions into a YouTube clip. You might use the Explain Everything app to explore tricky aspects of content that learners need to know.

Traditionally, we have expected learners to work independently online. In the first flush of using the internet in education (around the early 2000s), teachers would often suggest websites that students might like to explore for themselves in their own time. A variation on creating a reading list for a course might be to create a class group on a social bookmarking site like Diigo and ask learners to contribute useful sites that they have found. Your role as teacher is to keep an eye on the group suggestions and comment on the value of specific sites.

We design for good learning

Web 2.0 was picked up by educationalists as a chance to get students more active online. While initially it was the teacher who created blogs or podcasts, more and more these became tools for to use, whether individually or collaboratively. The facility to create online material became a useful tool for learning, as did the ability to write/speak for an audience wider than the class. Collaborative spaces like wikis allow for interaction to occur round a particular task. Your role as teacher with Web2.0 tools is to design tasks that result in good learning. Set clear guidelines, model good use yourself, and give plenty of practice with new tools before assessing students’ work in them.

Conversations in class can contribute to learning. Just as you create opportunities for learners to engage meaningfully with each other face-to-face, as a blended teacher you can support online conversations.  Your role doesn’t end with setting up a forum or a chat space. Instead, you need to design tasks that require learners to engage with each other online.  Your role as teacher is to establish clear deadlines for contributions and then stay in touch with what is happening. You don’t have to read EVERYTHING that students write, but you do need a clear sense of what the discussion is about and should answer questions that evolve from online conversations – either in the forum itself or in the face-to-face class.

I hope there are some ideas above to inspire what ‘online taught’ means. There are further suggestions on the Blended Learning Moodle page What does ‘online taught’ mean? Feel free to contact us at TPA if you would like to discuss these ideas more, or if you would like to have us facilitate a workshop for you and your colleagues to explore the ‘online taught’ component in relation to your specific context.

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