Focus on effective pedagogical strategies rather than just the technologies being used.

Learning to Teach Online

(all content featured has been curated by the University of South Wales for Coursera)

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, then you may have noticed some of my posts on OCTEL. It was the first MOOC I signed up for and I managed just the first few weeks. Problems were the level of interactivity and engagement, there was also a lot of information (mostly static and reading-based and I felt I needed to do it all. I found it impossible to sustain.

So, here goes MOOC number 2. This one is free via Coursera and it seems far more manageable thus far. I just need to make the decision about whether to complete the two assignments to gain a distinction…

These posts will be a log of my learning for myself and you!

Module 1- Why is Online Teaching Important?

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Module Learning Outcomes:
By engaging with the content, and completing the activities and related discussion in this module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate awareness of the current changes in the educational context related to the use of technology, and the relationship of these changes to what is happening in the rest of society
  2. Articulate the importance of technology in contemporary learning and teaching practice

Setting a Learning Goal

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I am asked to set some learning goals. I like the personalised nature of this and I also recognise that choosing this goal from a list ensures that my expectations still align with the overall aims of the MOOC and can therefore be achieved.

For this module (chosen from a list):

Validate my understanding of the topic through relevant discussion with peers and instructors.

For the whole MOOC (chosen from a list):

I want to gain knowledge about blended/online learning and use this to re-design my course(s).

What’s great is that I’m told I’ll be able to redefine my overall goal for the MOOC as the modules progress.

Key Concepts Videos

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This section would have been made easier for me with some kind of split screen facility so that I could type notes here in my blog draft whilst also watching the video. There is perhaps a way I can do this myself, I just don’t know how…yet!

Why is Online Teaching Important? (Video 1)

The video begins by looking at the ways in which digital technologies have infiltrated society and our everyday behaviours.

Disciplinary knowledge and skills but digital literacies too. We need to develop our own understanding of digital literacies (in the context of relevant professional industries and society.) Focus on effective pedagogical strategies rather than just the technologies being used.

Benefits:

  • T&L is not limited to a set class time.
  • It can happen anywhere and can incorporate students from a range of geographical locations.
  • Administration efficiencies
  • Ease of access for learners
  • Information sharing
  • A wealth of online resources
  • A diverse and enriching experience

We need to further explore how online teaching relates to what we do, how it relates to the disciplines we teach and how it benefits us and the learners we teach.

How we learn is changing (video 2)

The internet is changing the way knowledge work is done in society. More and more of our communication is digital.  We can’t afford not to explore these technologies within education institutions too.

Benefits:

  • Flexibility of delivery- where, when and how
  • Rich in terms of local, national, international
  • Interdisciplinary and cross-campus
  • A more diverse learning experience for students
  • Access information, share information, create communities of common interests and facilitate communication between these communities

The fixed dynamics of lecture and discussion has been changed by the internet to make the on-campus time more productive. The two environments should be complimentary to one another. Any technology strategy needs to be incremental and radical, as well as flexible enough to respond to what’s coming over the horizon.

Why and how we can use technology to support teaching should be kept at the forefront of an institution’s strategy.

An institution who has formalised the structure of and team behind pure online learning will be ahead of the crowd.

Staff development:

Once staff accept the primary objective of using technology then there needs to be more work done to define how the online learning environment can be most effective.

Training of the ‘how’ needs to be stopped and we must see staff development as a genuine development process- invest time and resources in it; accepting there will be a tangible return on the investment.

Learning online from a student perspective (video 3)

Benefits:

  • Source and locate information on the move- read, digest and do something with it when I have time
  • I can pace my own learning around other commitments
  • How and when I contribute to and interact with discussion forums is up to me
  • Learning is a social thing and online learning reflects this
  • Feeling comfortable to question is vital

Challenges:

  • Group work- lack of face-to-face contact- communicating an idea takes longer and is more difficult
  • Experiencing isolation
  • Support in terms of using the given technologies effectively is important
  • Students will need to find their own solutions quite often. LMS systems are too prescriptive or limiting- we’ve found other other places to communicate. Use of libraries and e-books/journals alongside.
  • There’s a lot of information- knowledge is tangible but how to interact with it effectively needs to be taught- working through reading lists and identifying what is of most use.

New behaviours:

  • I use Google docs extensively when I’m doing assignments- I can pick it up wherever I am and it works well with things like Google Scholar.
  • Sharing things I’ve found with other learners is part of what I do in research now.
  • I use other people’s blogs extensively, as well as TEDx and other YouTube channels.
  • I make a lot of my photos and videos open source so that others can use and re-purpose as they see fit. Education needs to be opened up.

Advice for teachers using technology:

  • Don’t be afraid of it
  • Allow students to steer the conversations, navigate the use of the tech, and offer solutions.

Activities

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Activity 1.1 explores the importance of online teaching. It allows you to self assess your background and your future interests. It requires you to determine where you stand in the current educational landscape in terms of your previous knowledge and experience as well as your inclination, confidence and interest towards the integration of technology in education. Based on the information gathered from your responses, you will be directed to the resources/discussion forums most relevant to your knowledge and skills.

10-20 minutes (I like that all activities have a suggested- very realistic- time on them so that work on the MOOC can be effectively planned around other commitments).

I rated myself as being ‘very passionate about the use of technology in education and always look forward to learning about new technologies to integrate into my teaching.’

I defined ‘digital literacy’ as being ‘the technical and critical analysis abilities required to find, evaluate, create and disseminate information using different digital technologies.’

I got an immediate check to say I was ‘correct’. I think the immediacy of online feedback is particularly important for motivation and engagement.

I was then asked to rate my confidence in a range of online activities and approaches. I was buoyed by the fact that I am mostly confident in blended learning approaches; it is in pure online learning where I am less certain as my exposure to it has been so low.

I was then asked to rate my confidence with aspects of teaching in general, generally asking about attitudes towards teaching and pedagogy.I felt it was of particular importance not for the MOOC to consider education technology separately to teaching in general.

After answering what challenges I felt I have faced in engaging with online learning, a series of recommendations were made:

Characteristics of Effective Teachers

Comparing the Effectiveness of Classroom and Online Learning: Teaching Research Methods

Has e-learning increased access to learning opportunities?

147 Practical tips for teaching online groups

Digital literacy across the curriculum

Navigating the Digital Shift: Implementation Strategies for Blended and Online Learning (Kindle)

Strategies for Effective Lesson Planning

Instructional Strategies for Online Courses

Establishing a quality review for online courses

I was also directed to three forums so that I could share my experiences with others.

Activity 1.2 will help us assess your knowledge about the concepts covered in Module 1. Based on the information we obtain from your responses, you will be recommended relevant resources.

I was asked to identify the benefits of online learning (that could be used to persuade a more reluctant member of staff to participate- selected from a list):

  • Students could be able to collaboratively learn anywhere
  • Teacher administrative loads could be streamlined
  • There may be increased learning opportunities for students living with a disability who might have difficulties within the classroom

If this same teacher did decide to try teaching using online technologies, I was asked to indicate what advice I would give her about getting started(selected from a list):

  • Seek out experienced colleagues for advice
  • Think carefully about why you want to use technology in the first place – it has to be relevant
  • Be prepared to invest a lot of time in the beginning, but efficiencies will come with experience

After submitting a  couple of resources of my own to the MOOC shared resources page, these were the resource recommendations provided for me:

What Is Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge?

HERDSA Review of Higher Education, Vol. 1

What makes a successful online student?

Infotention Skills: From Information Overload to Knowledge Navigation

Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms

What is e-learning and its challenges?

Activity 3 – Strategy – Where do you want to go? What are your motivations for doing this course? What do you want to achieve? Are you wanting a practical outcome, are you just browsing, or do you want to further develop your understanding of a particular concept? These are the questions worth asking yourself when setting your own goals in teaching to take appropriate actions. This activity will help you begin to think about these questions so that you can guide yourself towards the most appropriate support and information in the course for your own circumstances.

Q. How do you define goals and intent?

A. A goal helps to give direction. It should be flexible in that it can change dependent on circumstances and context but the intent behind it is likely to stay the same. This is the emotional drive behind a goal and is likely to make it achievable. This intent links the goal to the impact it should lead to and this, in education, should always be a positive impact on the learner.

Q. Why is it important to set goals in life?

A. A sense of achievement provides motivation and without a goal, success/achievement can not be experienced. There are a number of things that contribute towards success- failure, challenges and ultimately, learning. They give purpose in life.

Q. What are the differences between goals set by teachers working in K12, ESL, Higher Education

A. A teacher teaching in the post-16 sector is likely to focus on learners’ attribute development to ensure they become more employable as that is the end goal: heightened independence, autonomy, resilience and self-efficacy for instance. Teachers within an ESL context will have the independence goal in common but it will have a different focus: confidence, effective communication skills and basic life in the UK skills will all be important. Higher Education teachers hopefully receive learners who have higher levels of independence so they likely have goals of wishing to further these skills; developing real subject-specific industry standard behaviours, skills and experiences.

I think what links all their goals will be the learner; they should be at the centre of any goals set.

Discussion Forums

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I struggled with these forums. Catching up with the course late meant 5 pages of forum posts in each discussion thread with comments on them. I struggled to know what to put- should I write my own post or comment on someone else’s? When I read through other people’s posts I just didn’t know what to write in response. Perhaps as well as the driving question of the forum, further questions to provoke thought could be added? Knowing which threads would be the most interesting and relevant for me to contribute to/learn from was a challenge: thread titles weren’t always the most clear/helpful.

I contributed to a thread about what may have slowed down engagement with online learning. I responded to a post within this thread about ‘time’:

I’d agree with the time element- so many ideas and not enough time. I make time for it of course, by working late and on weekends/in holidays as it is my passion but it’s not that sustainable over time.  I would love to partner with a few other people and create a module each for an online course- perhaps these are connections I can begin to make through this course… I do love tools like EdPuzzle and EduCanon for videos with built-in question facilities. This way, I can use sections of videos that already exist and add-in assessment activities. I’ve also been able to set-up a Google+ community where I can post relevant reading content and pose questions for discussion- this makes things quicker, easier and more manageable over time. I am also setting tasks for this year’s learners to create content for one another. My hope is that next year I can use that content to set-up online learning materials and units for my classes- fingers crossed it works as well as I hope it will! 🙂

I enjoyed reading another post within this thread called, ‘inertia is the enemy’, but bar- ‘yes, I agree with you!’ I didn’t know what comment to make…

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