Weekly student activities are critical for keeping students engaged and on task.
During Step 1 you reviewed your course student learning outcomes and listed the categories for everything that will be assessed your online course. This week you will decide and list all your activities for each of those categories.
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Choosing online activities
When you begin to decide on an online activity look at the benefits for yourself and your students. The success of your activity is dependent upon how appropriate the activity and the chosen technology are for the learning context, and how well both are integrated into the learning process.
It is important to carefully select activities that are most appropriate for your course learning outcomes. It is also critical to remember the internet is part of our everyday life and has become integrated into contemporary society, and our teaching should reflect and acknowledge this.
For the online learning and your teaching experience to be effective, create a strong alignment between the intended learning outcomes and the activities to develop to student achievement of the outcomes. Choose activities and associated technology on these factors:
- The intended learning outcomes for the course
- The student situation (location, access to internet, number of students in the class, etc)
- The learning experiences or technical requirements of the course content (eg inclusion of large graphic files, collaborative tools, live chat features, external guest lecturer access, file sharing, discussions, etc)
- The breadth and depth of the teacher’s previous online experience
Pedagogy before technology
It is important to examine the reasons for choosing an online activity– using it purely as a gadget because the technology will not lead to a successful learning experience. Students value technology when it adds to their learning, not when it is used with no apparent relationship or benefit to how they learn. It is important therefore to consider the following issues:
- Establish the key pedagogical principles and then decide how technology can support activities that explore them: For example, what are the learning outcomes, what do you want to achieve, what skills do you want students to learn? Ask these questions and then decide how best you can integrate the technology in order to achieve or support these outcomes.
- Technology is just a means to an end: When you teach online you can select from multiple technologies, however the technology is just a facilitator of the learning process – you still need to have sound teaching strategies in place to support the learning.
- Activities should remain relevant to the learning process: Be discerning – don’t be caught up in allure of technology and its many features. Ensure that activities, tasks, etc have an educational purpose and stimulate learning.
- Online learners complete activities that include points toward their final grade. Learners very rarely complete activities without points.
Use the table below (based on Bloom’s Taxonomy). The table illustrates a range of types of learning outcomes and associated online activities that may help students develop the skills or knowledge in relation to each outcome.
New to online teaching
When you are new to online teaching the large number of technologies and possibilities can be overwhelming. It is difficult to know where to start, how to determine which technology would be appropriate, and how best to use it in your teaching.
First, do some research by speaking to colleagues; reviewing similar case studies or scenarios; researching online and professional blogs that feature the use of these technologies or strategies in teaching; and checking with an instructional designer for advice.
If you are new to online teaching or do not have much experience, consider the following:
- Stick to the basics.
- While it is tempting to use every new tool and feature in your activity, start slowly and build up your experience and confidence. It is better to introduce one component, use it appropriately, evaluate its success, and then adjust your teaching where necessary. Slowly introduce more components once you and your students are more comfortable with the technology
- Use technologies that you are comfortable with.
- Select technologies that you are already using, that are easy use , or that your school provides training and support for.
- Ensure that you are familiar with the technology before the semester starts.
- This allows you to foresee any potential problems, adjust any content or tasks accordingly, and answer any questions promptly that students may have when they start using the technology.
- Limit the number of technologies used overall in any one class.
- Using too many online components can be at first overwhelming and frustrating for the students and can distract from the learning experience. Use only what technology is essential for facilitating your online activity effectively.
While many students are aware of the benefits of using technology in their daily lives for communication, socializing, banking, shopping and so forth, they may not always be as familiar or comfortable with using it for learning. As an online teacher, it is important for you to:
- Explain why you have introduced an online activity.
- At the beginning of the semester describe the purpose of the technology, your reasons for selecting it, how it will benefit their learning, and what the expected learning outcomes are from using it.
- Provide briefing sessions and supporting material.
- Don’t assume that students are familiar with the technology. Provide training sessions at the start for students and any additional teachers, as well as supporting documentation that they can refer to when they need help.
- Support students throughout the semester.
- Answer any technical questions promptly, introduce a Q&A thread online, provide a list of FAQ, and respond to any queries promptly to ensure that the technology does not hinder or frustrate the students’ learning.
- Ask students to help one another.
- Where appropriate, allow students to respond to one another’s questions, and to share their technical expertise with the class. This can greatly cut down on the time a student has to wait to get help from their teacher.
There are many activities that can devise to keep learners engaged. All activities need to be clearly linked to the stated learning outcomes for the course and prepare learners for any formal authentic assessment. If learning outcomes are focused on skill development, then the activities should be designed to give students opportunities to develop or practice such skills. Activities need to be regularly spaced and have an accurate estimate of the time learners will need to complete the activities. You need to make hard decisions about the balance between ‘content’ and ‘activities’.
Online students must have enough time to do regular activities each week or their risk of dropping out or failing the course will increase dramatically. In particular learners need timely feedback or comments on their activities, from the instructor and from other students. When you choose your activities take into account your workload as well as the students’.
Most online courses are overstuffed with WAY too much content and not enough consideration is given to what students need to DO, CONNECT and EVALUATE. Developing an appropriate structure of learning activities is a key step to achieving quality in online courses.
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Step 2 – Planning Learning Activities/Assessments
Follow the steps below to plan your Learning Activities/Assessments.
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