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Active Learning

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Saved by Anne McKinney
on May 12, 2009 at 12:33:52 pm



Module 5: Planning the Path to Learning


From Objectives to Activity

By preparing Learning Objectives in Module 2, you will have decided what you want students to learn as a result of taking your course. Now the next task is to plan activities that will lead them through the learning process so they accomplish these objectives.

creative commons licensed photo via Flickr by joysaphine 

In the f2f classroom, lecture-based teaching may be considered a traditional, time-honored method of conveying information. Depending on the course, this can work decently enough in an online setting. Audio podcasts, live chat sessions, and video feeds have been helping instructors make their lectures more digestible for online students for years now.


Yet there are still subjects that are viewed with skepticism when it comes to teaching them in an online setting because they require something beyond a lecture-based pedagogical format. Imagine how an instructor might complain about teaching an online section of something like Underwater Basket Weaving, for example: "My students are motivated enough about the subject matter, but every time I teach a live session, half of them electrocute themselves."


You may need to think creatively about your lesson plans to make the assignments and activities fit the learning needs of your students and the subject matter. This is not to compensate for the lack of an f2f classroom presence, or to replace lecturing altogether, but to make use of the resources, software programs, and other advantages that online education has over the classroom environment. What techniques can we use that require hands-on demonstrations, for example? How can we guide students through self-discovery and construct their own meaning of knowledge?


Learning Through Communication & Process

As we discussed in Module 4, getting students to communicate with each other enhances the online learning experience. You can facilitate this experience by creating course activities that focus on learning as a process.


In other words, plan activities that require students to perform an action to complete the assignment. For example, getting students to discuss a topic with each other is a kind of communication-based activity. Assigning a project for students to work on together in groups is another. What cements the experience is student/student communication: if they don't actively discuss the activity with each other, the group disbands into individuals working independently on pieces of an assignment.


An example of communication-based process is to create an activity that simulates social media. If students are already using social media like Facebook, instant messaging, and email to find information, argues Kuhlman (2009), they could explore and search for answers within a course structure that imitates the design of those media formats. The Rapid e-Learning Blog explains this concept in more detail in "Engage Your Learners By Mimicking the Real World".


Another way instructors can increase interactive learning is by assigning a project that requires students to work together on through to completion. Keeping regular communication with the group yourself will also add to the experience and help you ensure that the students are working together and learning is taking place.


What you want to avoid are activities that require students to read an assignment and then do nothing with it. This is a very low level of activity because there is little to motivate the students to both read the entire assignment and remember any of it afterward. Reading this on-demand website is probably enough of a stretch, even for the most seasoned academic. If you've read this far, give yourself a cookie. Then, go to the forums and interact with other human beings again.


Photo: "he spotted a rabbit - and was gone", creative commons licensed photo via Flickr by joysaphine




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