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Preventing Information Overload

Page history last edited by Anne McKinney 12 years, 6 months ago

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"So many great projects, so little time"

It's easy to overwhelm online students with work when there are so many interesting new innovations in online learning technology. Instructors can be tempted to add extra assignments into their courses that require students' mastery of new software or online resources.

 

It's important to recognize how much time it takes students to complete assignments, so we do not give them more work than they can reasonably be expected to accomplish for one course. This is not always easy to gauge — it may take some trial and error the first time you introduce a new feature to your course. 

 

Options for making new technologies & assignments less overwhelming

One way you can introduce new activities, technologies, or learning styles is to make them optional and give your students a choice when it's feasible:

 

  • Podcast lectures with transcripts: Offer both audio and text versions of a lecture, so students don't have to listen if they don't have time, or they don't have to read if they'd rather get away from the screen. (This is also recommended for making your lectures accessible.)

 

  • Research topics: give students a choice of topics for a research assignment. When they share their finished projects, each student can learn something about the others' topics without having to research several different topics in one semester.

 

  • Learning new technologies/software programs: Give students a project in which they each choose one form of new technology to use in relation to the project topic. (i.e., using a wiki, blog, online tutorial, collaborative video, etc.) They can see the other finished products during final presentation time.

 

  • Make larger assignments a group project, so the work load is divided and minimized.

 

  • If you like one project and want all your students to attempt it, you can make it part of the full curriculum once you've judged how much time it took a student (or group of students) to complete it. If what was meant to be a short exercise turned out to be a huge, time-consuming monster, you can devote more semester time to it in future semesters (or delete it from the curriculum entirely).

 

It's also important to forgive yourself if you experiment with an activity or project that backfires on your students. Ideally we'd like to avoid these situations, but it's not always easy to find a way to introduce something new in a safe, non-credit "test" environment. And if we never take that chance, the students never get to benefit from the activities that really work well. The best way to approach a failure is to learn from what went wrong and improve it in the future.

 

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