As with face-to-face teaching within a campus-based classroom, teaching online through Learning Management Systems is an active process that involves planning and skill to create a productive environment for learning. The tools available to teach online have now been available for quite a few years, but in recent times have become far more intuitive, integrated, and understood within the learning and teaching process. Plus the expertise developed by students to work online; to complete tasks, to act convivially and productively in groups, and to communicate over distance, is increasing desirable as many more work environments become virtualised
There are numerous tasks that instructors can perform to promote the productiveness in Learning Management Systems. However, the integrated suite of tools in which they are made-up aren’t necessarily productive in themselves and there is a lot that instructors can do to promote their effectiveness to address teaching and learning goals. This partly involves the ability to recognise in the first instance what may work better in a face-to-face setting, and what may work better online. Then instructors must devise coherent, engaging, and convivial activities to sustain the group of students over time, both on and off-line, to work towards these goals.
What works online?
A suggested way to integrate the Learner Management System into a course; it is to first do an ‘audit’ of the curriculum. Tasks such as group writing tasks, discussions and debates, assessment tasks, and the active and critical engagement with content—such as academic articles—can be done either on or offline. It is up to the instructor to decide what mode works best for their particular content coupled with the assessment tasks and learning outcomes. There are of course, tasks that Learner Management Systems do particularly well, such as delivering of core teaching materials such as unit outlines and pre-recorded lectures. However other tasks, such as formative assessment (the informal assessment during tasks), Learner Management Systems also do well and there are an array of communication tools available in them to communicate directly to students, either individually or in a group, to aid this.
Once a decision is made to integrate certain tools, such as forums or virtual classrooms, into the curriculum, it is important to consider how they will be moderated to ensure that the desired learning outcomes are met. The instructor must take a proactive role to make sure that the interaction with content, the interaction between groups of students, and the interaction with the instructor are constructive and meaningful (see: Salmon; 2012). The tone and calibre of the conversations ensure students may contribute constrictive critique confidently, without the fear of derision or personal reproach.
Instructors should intervene in forums, to moderate and guide, to reward good ideas and drive conversations. This is fairly similar to what takes place in face-to-face tutorials, however there are new opportunities in online forums, such as, to summarise the debate, to reinforce common goals, to place links to content to reinforce or refute an argument, and to reiterate at intervals the benefits of contributing to the forum. Plus forum are in written form meaning they provide a reference point for pursuing ideas for subsequent written assessments.
But as with face-to-face teaching, it is also important to push, to a certain degree, the responsibility for finding course related material and discovering new information—and thus the responsibility for learning— back onto the student. There is a danger that the instructor becomes little more than a ‘search engine’ offering quick answers to question in an uncritical, encyclopaedic way. Scaffolding, linking, and delivering information in an interesting and challenging way will promote information sharing between students thus assist in the building of knowledge through dialogue.
Building strong foundations
Online sessions may be framed as an ‘online seminar’ or ‘online tutorial’ and may be synchronous or asynchronous, again depending on the content and activities. As with face-to-face teaching, it is important to make the topic of study interesting, to ground the objects of the study in anecdotes, stories, and in real-life experience. Also, couching the object of study in discursive dialogue between students will assist them in learning from each other. This may take the form of a group of students coming together in a forum to provide feedback on an article; to summarise and critique it, and then develop a set of questions to bring to class to further explore in a face-to-face meeting.
In general, ideas should be presented to students in such a way that they make sense in the overall course and the substantive conversations directed towards the goal of the course. Activities may be collaborative or practice based, but always with a set of clear and coherent goals. In summary, building a strong foundation from the start, the planning of activities and the introduction and explanation of online tools in their context will sustain students in the longer term. Both instructor and student are working towards common goals, with shared responsibilities.
For more discussion on moderating successful online forums see: Gilly Salmon, “eModeration: the Key to Online Teaching and Learning, Taylor and Francis, 2012
The report I co-authored for the Institute for Broadband Enabled Society (IBES) at the University of Melbourne is now available. “The Australian Government is building a National Broadband Network (NBN) to connect all Australians to high-speed broadband. The network has been promoted by Government and industry commentators as being increasingly important for participation in the digital economy. Yet the reported rates of uptake have been relatively low in some areas of the rollout. Research suggests that in many cases low NBN uptake is not simply a matter of people waiting for their existing Internet contract to expire or for their landlords to sign connection agreement, but relates to uncertainty of the NBN itself. This uncertainty arises from the confusing installation logistics, a fluid retail and technology environment for Internet services and a failure to communicate a clear ‘value proposition’ to the market.
This research project builds upon previous studies into household media and communications use. These include: Broadband in the home: a longitudinal study that was previously supported by IBES and the High- speed broadband and household media ecologies project, funded by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN). These studies have focused on the expectations, uses and impacts of high-speed broadband from a select group of early adopters.
In order to examine the uptake of high-speed broadband, the researchers are investigating and analysing the differences in consumer perceptions of high-speed broadband and its benefit. An important element is how people understand high-speed broadband in relation to daily activities and the challenges and opportunities that broadband-enabled technologies can deliver end-users. A critical element of consumer adoption rates is how the benefits of the National Broadband Network are framed, and how this framing mediates patterns of household Internet use and decision-making.
To develop a detailed understanding of the relationship between NBN uptakes – researchers are undertaking a range of analytical techniques, such as online surveys, frame analysis and interviews with people. The data obtained will provide a valuable tool for exploring the cultural, marketing and media representations driving attitude formation across consumer segments in relation to the NBN adoption” (link to the report here)
ADHO, the Association of Digital Humanities Associations (in which the aaDH is associated) has a new discounted members category, which is a good way to join the aaDH. It costs about $45 to join, but this is without the subscription to LLC.
And if you join aaDH, you get a discount of $150 to register for DHA2014 plus a similar discount for the major international DH conference in Switzerland this year.
More details here:
- Judgement: the ability to examine a situation from a number of different perspectives and offer an independent position on the situation based upon hard-won life experiences
- Empathy: the ability to imagine a world bigger than oneself and also, the other wonderful people in it, who are also engaging with the world in unique and special ways (well, sometimes)
- Synthesis: the ability to put desperate ideas together (woops, I mean disparate) in such a way as to make sense to you and possible someone else
- Analysis: the ability to critical examine an idea, and how it got into your head, and not just describe the idea from a pseudo-objective standpoint (like the objective god of empirical science…shite the robot has spotted me…run!)
- The critical application of XML to significant and important historical (and other) phenomena to bring depth and perspective to angry robots