We all strive to create effective online learning content and experiences for students. Yet, when we are teaching content to students and designing our online course, it’s so easy to overwhelm students with lists and folders of materials, cross-links and multiple links, and giving them everything we ever wanted to them to know about our subject. I know I’ve been guilty of over-supplying the information and options in the past. We just have so much we know about the subject and after all isn’t our role to teach and share what we know when we are doing instruction?
Interestingly, one of the consistent complaints we hear from students when we survey them in regard to the learning management systems, be it Blackboard or Canvas are: problems with navigation and knowing where to go first in the course, where to find something, or which links to use.
Actual student feedback comments from past surveys:
- “Things are to scattered. Easy to loose track of where something was. Some things are everywhere you look and others are hidden.”
- “It was hard to figure out how to submit assignments… so I would suggest making it easier and in one place. I just found it difficult the way either my teacher set it up as, or how the website was set up.”
- “Collaborative group work was hard to manage. Not everyone knew where to look for our shared documents we were using.”
Now, various learning management tools take different approaches, some are better or cleaner than others; but we always have a certain amount of customization we can use to tailor the course how we see fit. How do we do that best?
One approach is to look at online courses you like or that are set up as “best practice” examples and borrow some ideas on course set-up. Taking part in workshops and sharing about online course design is certainly another approach. Many of you have likely used both.
Let me offer another approach, slip on a different pair of shoes and think like a student. You do it now without realizing it when you participant in our IMPACT course redesign program through the Blackboard content, complete an online MOOC or participant in any other online course for professional development. I have had amusing comments from my IMPACT faculty, who sheepishly admitted they were short on time to complete their weekly online readings and activities. One of them said he felt like one of his students must, by quickly scanning down the page to see just what he “had” to get done for the session today. So, if we are looking for shortcuts at times; what of course are the students doing? If we aren’t sure what to do first and poke around when we are in an online course for the first time; what are students doing? The same, I would imagine. I don’t think we can write it off as students are being lazy when we are all challenged with time constraints and try to maximize our time on tasks.
While we like to give many options and much information, it’s best to help learners maximize their time on tasks too. So as you set up your entire course or a partial amount of your course online, think like a student.
Look at the course like you are viewing it for the first time. Using the ‘student view’ options provided are useful for this as well. Consider, is it glaringly clear where the student should start first? Is it without a doubt, clear what is required weekly and where items are found in the menu or content arrangement? Have you pared down content to focus on what the student ‘must know’ and moved additional ‘nice to know’ information into a reference area; so, they are not bogged down completing weekly tasks? How will they communicate with you and with other students? Ask a student to test drive your course and provide feedback.
To get started with assembling and arranging your content, here is a link from our ITaP Course Design Web page: http://www.itap.purdue.edu/learning/cdm/index.html#faculty or email our team at email@example.com. Happy thinking!
This Spring, I made a decision to enroll in a Blended Learning course sponsored by EDUCAUSE called “Becoming a Blended Learning Designer”. This MOOC requires participants to complete the course in six weeks, and during that time participate in discussions, blogging, and readings.
As I went through the readings for the first week of the class, two lines stuck out to me:
“Blended learning is not simply adding an online component to a face-to-face course. Technology in a course should be used wisely – to facilitate student learning.” (Thompson, 2015, p. 7)
I’ve seen cases all too often where faculty members try to add technology in to the course because they’re trying to meet a need. They know they should be adding technology but they’re looking to add something that may not always be the most practical or the most appropriate for their class. Some instructors I have worked with have looked to using the LMS to replace in-class quizzes, for example. Great idea in theory, but they were not prepared for some of the variables:
- Students trying to use smartphones or tablets to take the quiz (when the LMS doesn’t necessarily support this well)
- Students taking the quiz with other students
- Students using their notes/books for the quiz
The instructors in these cases were thinking it would be simple to replace their low-stakes quizzes with ones that could simply be taken online. But they wanted a full replication of the in-class experience, one that mitigated “cheating” (or as some prefer to call it, “collaboration”).
For me the first part of a blended learning course is determining which parts should go online, and which should not. It should be a careful, deliberate process that seeks to allow technology to assist in teaching, not trying to force technology into a role that faculty may regret later.
If you are looking to redevelop your class, consider applying for the IMPACT program by visiting http://www.purdue.edu/impact. If you know what tools you want to use and need help getting those tools integrated into your class, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thompson, K. (ed.). (2015). BlendKit Reader (2nd Ed.). Retrieved from https://blended.online.ucf.edu/blendkit-course-blendkit-reader-chapter-1/
Student-centered learning looks at where students are when they enter the classroom and attempts to customize teaching to allow students some freedom in choosing how to learn. This kind of teaching allows instructors to free themselves from the traditional lecture and allows them to change the learning space to one that best fits the needs of the student. Students are led to what they need to know instead of listening to someone tell them and they can become actively engaged in their learning.
What has been for some, a liberating style of teaching and learning, frees instructors by allowing them to lead the adventure instead of dispensing it. It is not unusual for instructors to struggle with the transition in the beginning and many feel as if they are giving up some control, which is not inaccurate. However, giving up some control allows students to become actively engaged. Learning can reach new heights without limit. More focus is often put on the quality of students questions instead of the quality of their answers. Higher order thinking skills are engaged since students are able to keep moving towards a goal, work together, ask questions and build on what they know. According to John Dewey in his book entitled How We Think, he notes deep thinking takes time and cannot be expected to happen when prompt answers are required (Dewey,1910). Student-centered learning allows students to make those higher order connections by giving students time to explore and be actively involved in their learning.
This change in the dynamic of the classroom can often intimidate those new to the process, but I liken it to a typical lab experience often seen as a normal part of many lecture courses. That shift instructors feel when they go from lecture-based courses to a lab class is the shift they are referring to in student-centered instruction, switching from dispenser to facilitator and learners going from passive to active learning. Most of the instructor’s work happens before the lab begins with perhaps a pre-lab, setting up the equipment, making sure students stay on task by outlining lab report requirements and having students turn in documentation showing what they have done. This is student-centered learning. The instructor set up the experience and then sits back and let them experience it. There is no lecturing during a lab, yet students learn. Learning through active engagement helps students better relate what they are doing to what they already know resulting in higher levels of retention and comprehension (Angelo & Cross, 1993).
Although not a new concept, some may struggle with the shift to the student-centered approach. Taking this familiar concept and applying it to the lecture part of a course is something many might find foreign. Many others have found it worth their time in making the transformation in everything they teach because many students are more engaged and respond much better to being an active participant in their learning. Other students though who were counting on putting in seat time for another lecture series while chatting on their phone, napping or doing other things have been found to resist the expectation they engage. Each instructor needs to decide what is best for their learners, but keep in mind there is no one right way to create a student-centered environment. Your subject material, student population, and personal comfort level should all be taken into consideration.
The IMPACT Program at Purdue University provides resources and support for instructors to redesign their course in a student-centered way. The comfort level of the faculty member is of utmost importance and nothing is imposed without the instructor initiating the desire for change.
On April 10th, IMPACT will be hosting Eric Mazur who will be talking about how he transformed his course from lecture to student-centered. Faculty, staff, and students are invited to attend.
Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers.
Dewey, J. (1910). How We Think. New York: D.C. Heath & CO.
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Flipping the classroom requires students to gather information outside of class, generally through reading or watching recorded lectures. As flipping the classroom gains momentum, instructors are increasingly looking for ways to engage students in online content so that students will be prepared and ready to participate in class. The material presented must not only provide the necessary background information for the classroom activity, but it must interest the students as well so that they actually engage with it. After all, the flipped classroom model doesn’t work if the students don’t come to class prepared with the knowledge they’ll need to participate.
Video is a popular method of presenting content online, and TED-Ed is offering a way to turn TED Talks and YouTube videos into an interactive teaching opportunity. TED-Ed Lessons provide pre-made interactive videos, with the added advantage of allowing the instructor the ability to modify them to fit their own teaching style. Instructors can also create their own interactive videos using a video from YouTube.
These interactive videos turn passive video watching into an active learning experience. The videos can contain multiple choice and open-ended questions, connect to a class discussion, and link to additional information. With good questions and supplemental materials for further exploration, these interactive videos can encourage higher level thinking skills, which will increase the chance that students will be ready to actively engage in the flipped classroom.
The multiple choice questions are automatically graded, so students are provided immediate feedback. Students then have the opportunity to retry any questions they answer incorrectly. Instructors can also offer a video hint, which allows students to review the video before retrying the question, and may discourage guessing. Open-ended questions are sent to the instructor to review.
There are two options for obtaining interactive videos from TED-Ed:
OPTION 1: Find a pre-made interactive video
To find appropriate interactive videos, the instructor can filter by content (TED originals, TED Talk Lessons, and TED-Ed Selects), student level (elementary through college and beyond), and duration (3-18 minutes). These videos are also grouped by topics (arts, mathematics, science & technology, etc.) and series (inventions that shape history, how things work, math in real life, etc.).
OPTION 2: Create your own interactive video
Instructors can also create their own interactive videos using any TED Talk video or YouTube video. These interactive videos provide options like Watch (view the video), Think (create multiple choice and/or open-ended questions), Dig Deeper (add related content for students to explore), Discuss (create a discussion), and And Finally(provide closing thoughts or something to ponder to add closure to the lesson). This last option, And Finally, could also be used as the preparation for the class lesson that follows. The instructor can delete any of these functions, except watch. Once the video is finished, the instructor simply shares the URL with his or her students. The instructor can choose to keep the lessons private or distribute them publicly and can choose whether to allow others to customize the lesson.
A user must create an account to generate lessons and to participate in the interactive aspects of the video. Users must be thirteen to create an account. Lessons viewed, lessons started, lessons completed, lesson drafts, and lessons created are tracked in the user’s account. Instructors can also track student activity, feedback from students, and feedback from educators. This feedback can allow instructors to revise their videos as necessary in order to ensure that they are meeting student needs.
TED-Ed is providing an interesting tool that may encourage student engagement outside of class and track student progress in one convenient package. It provides an active learning experience that encourages accountability through tracked student interaction. TED-Ed’s interactive videos may make flipping classrooms just a little bit easier and perhaps more interesting for the students.