1. Recognise that Online Delivery is different to traditional delivery.
This at first seems a silly thing to point out “Of course online delivery of learning material is different from live classes. It’s online”. However, understanding how it differs will allow to to plan more effective and engaging sessions.
Session Delivery, Digital literacy and Netiquette. In face to face delivery, the lecturer is free to move learners around, grouping them in different ways and laying out the class in a way that will make the activities run smoothly as well as ‘read’ the classroom and have a fixed regular point of contact. Online delivery makes this much more difficult in traditional lecture delivery. To ensure a smooth delivery of live online lectures as well as facilitation of group and asynchronous activities you do need to be comfortable working within Blackboard and basic computing programs such as email, Google apps and publisher software (such as Word), as well as comfortable with helping students troubleshoot basic technical difficulties or provide them with clear and consistent trouble shooting procedures. Online teaching removes most if not all personal communication with students that you would normally have in face to face situations, developing a clear and fair Netiquette can help facilitate qualitative communication with students. This could be in the form of clear expectations of behaviour (synchronously & asynchronously) and a clear expectation in methods of interaction, decorum and process.
Lack of visual feedback is a common challenge for lecturers. When presenting directly to an audience in the same room, you can adapt your delivery depending on visual feedback from the students. A room full of bored faces is a sure sign to a presenter or teacher that they need to introduce a more interesting activity or adapt their delivery to engage more. In the online classroom, make full use of the tools available to get similar feedback. Regular questions to the audience which they can respond to with voting tools are a useful way to check that the attendees are engaged in a live online session.
Asynchronicity, Courses presented with blended and a strong online component have a strong asynchronous element. where the students (and faculty) each determine when they will engage and participate in their online material. Asynchroncity allows the delivery material in numerous ways using online tools and allows students to flexibly engage with the material. The challenge is to manage this engagement and to measure how effectively the students have absorbed this material. A synchronous component can be an anchor for this evaluation but doesn’t have to be a sole tool to dispense it. In asynchronous blended and online courses, students depend even more on the facilitation, assignment clarification, and feedback provided by their instructor. There are lots of time-saving ways to add frequent and meaningful feedback through using both written and multimedia strategies and VLE tools.
Active Learning. This is a tear that lecturers should become familiar with as it is an approach to instruction that involves actively engaging students with the course material through discussions, problem solving, case studies and other methods. Blended and online delivered courses greatly use active learning principles and activities. It must be understood that active learning approaches place a greater degree of responsibility on the learner than passive approaches such as lectures to engage with course material, as such instructor guidance is crucial in an active learning classroom.
Personalised experience. A lecturer delivering a session to 200 students in a lecture theatre is addressing a group, a community of students who share an experience. When delivering that lecture online you are addressing a single student alone in their room. A group experience has become a personal one and it’s important for lecturers to recognise that and consider this when structuring online synchronous and asynchronous activities.
Change in Instructors role. In both online and face to face setting the role of the instructor is to teach. Though, teaching in the online environment looks different than teaching in a face-to-face class. All of the information in the world is at the student’s fingertips. They can literally open up a new tab and Google the answer. Teaching online becomes less about teaching information and more about facilitating student efforts to think critically, apply and make sense of new knowledge.
2. Engagement & Communication
For large classes, it’s easy to suggest that a classroom lecture can be shifted to a web broadcast or recorded video. But watching a person lecture online for an hour is not as compelling as sitting in a live classroom. Research has shown that many learners stop watching or paying attention to online lectures after a short period of time. For example, one study found that students tend to stop watching lecture videos after six minutes, regardless of how long the overall video is. In contrast, research suggests that during in-person lectures, the challenge is brief attention declines, with the first one occurring after 10 to 18 minutes. Thought must be given not to just imparting relevent information but how to do it in a way that engages and facilitates learning.
Key to this is communication. One of the most important aspects of online and blended classes is good, clear communication between students and lecturers. Avoid crossing wires by developing a clear communication strategy that your students and their parents can understand. This could go out as a document which includes:
Provide an overview of the channels/methods being used. Make sure you also include information on how to access these. Break it down in simple, bullet-pointed instructions. Never assume students will ‘figure it out’. Your students will feel much more comfortable with online learning if communication is predictable. Outline when during the week you will be uploading activities and posting feedback. You’ll bring back some of the structure associated with timetabled sessions.
Remember in communicating online that tone is important. It is easy to communicate with voice and video, but it is just as important to replicate in writing. Without it, students will misinterpret your messages — or simply perceive you as flat and robotic. Some ways tone can be conveyed.
- Emotive language: This prevents your messages from seeming bland and purely instructional.
- GIFs and emojis: Even a simple 😀 lightens the mood.
- Proper language and grammar: Careful writing indicates that time and thought has gone into your communication. No one wants to receive a message full of errors or aggressive all-capital letters.
Based on cognitive information processing (CIP) research (Mayer, 2001 & 2005), it is recommended to break down information into smaller, more manageable pieces or “chunks.” The sizing of the chunks means that the effect on cognitive load will be reduced and it creates somewhat of a scaffold for the user to concentrate on performing rather than using the system (Moore, Dickson-Deane, & Liu, 2014; Van Merriënboer & Sweller, 2005).
Consider applying chunking when looking at any information you wish to impart to your learners. It can help ease load and focused delivery on what’s important. Using other asynchronous techniques to explore concepts.
Tips for Chunking. Before you get started with chunking, it is necessary to classify and prioritise content. You should be able to discern what content is important and what is not. This will help you get rid of unnecessary content and prevent loading your learners with useless or irrelevant information.
Once you have decided on the content, it is important to organise it. A chunking map or an outline will help you in this where you can categorise the content and break it down into relevant groups. This will ensure that you chunk with coherence in mind where each chunk will contain similar ideas that will focus on a specific concept or theme. One way to do this is to put the chunks of information in a sequential order.
When chunking the content at screen level avoid putting too much information on a single screen. This will be an overload on the memory of learners because they can on an average hold on to only to three to five chunks of information at a certain point of time. Ideally the screen should have a limit of three to four main ideas.
If the content is familiar to the learners, you can have more information; otherwise you can stick to one idea per screen to create a better impact. Assess you learners before deciding on how much information you want to include in the screen.
The chunks of content should be short so that you can limit yourself to the most essential information and express them in as few words as possible. Limit the content to paragraphs of no more than three to four sentences. This will help learners better absorb the information and you can avoid cramming too much information on a single screen.
When chunking content, remember that formatting is important to avoid making it appear as ‘heavy’ blocks of text. Formatting options can be dividing the content into bullet points, subheadings, or numbered lists. Use a lot of white space to make it easy to scan or read the content. The titles, headings and subheadings should be easy to understand and catch the attention of the learner.
The working memory of your learners should be considered when chunking. Giving learners text-heavy and time-consuming content will be taxing because they are required to process the information as soon as they receive it. So provide short and relevant information. Irrelevant content can affect the learning process and decrease retention levels.
Community, whether it’s found online or offline, is valuable because it makes learners feel as if they belong. This is important for both traditional and blended courses as the more a student feels they belong, the more likely they are to remain enrolled in the course and engage with its content.
It’s important to foster a sense of community with your program and module. Use discursive and community building tools allowing student to feely discuss and communicate ideas as well as interactively engage with each other.
5. ABC Learning Design
ABC (Arena, Blended, Connected) learning design is a visual method to create a ‘storyboard’ showing the type and sequence learning activities required to meet the module’s learning outcomes, and how these will be assessed. ABC is based on the pedagogic theory of Professor Diana Laurillard’s Conversational Framework. The six learning types have proved to be a very effective method to helping teachers describe and discuss the student learning process. Students and non-teaching staff also find the learning types intuitive and easy to use and can produce innovative and creative storyboards with no prior experience of learning design. Learning types has proved a practical and quick framework to help academic teams consider how to move learning activities online. To look at and use the ABC process in module design click here for a breakdown of the process.