I felt that after the plethora of posts made over the last few weeks about a recently completed MOOC: Learning to Teach Online, with University of New South Wales via Coursera, (sorry about all of those!) I should generate one post as a conclusion and a summary of the key messages and learning points. Some of what’s below are messages that confirm my own way of thinking about technology and online learning whilst some of it is new learning. If you’ve missed the others (well dodged!) then this is the ONE you should seriously catch-up on!

Technology won’t solve the issues people have when it comes to teaching & learning. It needs to add to/enhance students’ learning.

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Planning

Before you plan any online learning activity- you need to be aware of the options available to you so that you can decide what’s most appropriate for you and your learners. This is a teacher’s responsibility- our knowledge must remain up-to-date.

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

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Alignment

(AKA: the most fundamental piece of learning that I take away from this course)

STEP 1: Return to your intended learning outcomes and assessments on the course- select the one or two which will inform your choice of an online learning activity.

STEP 2: Determine the type of activity that will best help your learners to address the learning outcomes. There are sourcing, synthesising and analysing information type activities, discussion and sharing of ideas, or self-assessment activities.

STEP 3: Select the appropriate technology to help facilitate the activity.

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.

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Presence

Set some ground rules so that there aren’t expectations of immediate feedback. They may get immediate responses but it’s important to state that it isn’t a 24/7 expectation.

If you want to be successful at it, the students need to sense your presence there- they’ll know we’re engaged and interested.

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.

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Resources

One of the most powerful advantages of the internet is having access to a wide variety of resources that we can use, create our own or ask learners to create their own. It i9s our job, as educators, to learn to sift through all of this content.

The power of a resource is how it is used/facilitated.

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Engagement

Your own level of engagement is a factor- why would the learners be engaged if you’re not?

They do notice when you’re absent from the online space and this can have a demotivating effect

Above all, ensure that any online activity you’re asking them to engage with is relevant, meaningful and an integral part of their learning process. Students are busy people too- if the task doesn’t directly support an assessment task or they’re unable to see the relevance then they just won’t do it.

Staff must develop a capacity to make an informed decision about the use of technology- using the latest technology is a facade- learners value technology when it adds to their learning and isn’t just a gadget or a bolt-on.

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Evaluation
Just like assessment, it’s important to think of evaluation as something you do throughout the learning process.

The killer app for students is their teacher- it’s what we do and how we do it that matters. How can technology enable you to spend more time with your learners?

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Using data

STEP 1: Think about what problem/aspect do you want to detect and then act upon. For instance, I want to make sure my students sustain their engagement throughout the course.

STEP 2: Think about what kind of data will show you this- what kind of activities will you need to analyse?

STEP 3: What actions/adjustments do you need to employ in the environment to solve the issue?

Resources shared by participants of the MOOC can be found here

I must give a huge thank you to the course leaders: Negin and Simon. They facilitated a fantastic learning experience and they succeeded in changing my view of MOOCs. Their videos were well delivered (even their use of Google Hangout one week as Simon was abroad) really showcased the way it can be done. Their videos were human, natural and there were different realistic environments each week- classrooms, bookcases and offices as backdrops. The effectiveness of these videos to make me feel a sense of belonging to the course really challenged my own personal love for videos with nice graphics etc. recently.

The forums were filled with exciting discussions, debates and sharing and there were a range of discussions meaning there was a place for everyone. The assessments encouraged reflection and were highly relevant; based in my own practice/context and allowed me to experiment with practical applications.

The assignments were submitted and peer assessment was embedded- I had to assess three other pieces of work before I assessed my own- this meant even more learning took place and by assessing my own after assessing other people’s, I could bring what I had learnt to shed light on my own assignment. I really appreciated Negin and Simon’s weekly videos answering some of our key questions- it was great to have their expertise delivered in this really relevant way.

Above all, I learnt…a lot! The wide range of case studies, practical guidance and viewpoints all enhanced my knowledge and understanding of what it means to learn online.

It was a course that fostered a love for learning- I didn’t complete the modules because the close of the course was approaching but because I genuinely didn’t want to miss out on the learning opportunity. All in all, it was an incredibly successful course so thank you very much Negin and Simon! Here’s to more online learning. I think these Google modules will be next, or perhaps this course on blended learning in vocational education, or perhaps this one on teaching character,or even this one from the incredible High Tech High…decisions, decisions, decisions.

You can view full summaries of my learning here:

Weekly Q&A

Assignment 1: Selecting Technology

Assignment 2: Designing a Learning Component

Module 1: Why is Online Teaching Important?

Module 2: Open and Institutionally Supported Technologies

Module 3: Planning Online Learning

Module 4: Online Learning Activities

Module 5: Online Assessment Strategies

Module 6: Online Resources

Module 7: Motivating and Engaging Students

Module 8: Evaluation Strategies

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