Learning to Teach Online: online.cofa.unsw.edu.au

Learning to Teach Online

http://online.cofa.unsw.edu.au/learning-to-teach-online/about-the-project

I have just completed watching the ten Learning To Teach Online  episodes. This free, professional development resource is designed for teachers in a tertiary context, to help them:

  • develop an understanding of online pedagogies and practice
  • provide flexible learning options for students, using the internet as a delivery medium.

Produced by UNSW COFA.online, the project is an award-winning ALTC funded initiative (2012 MERLOT Award for Exemplary Online Learning Resources – MERLOT Classics (USA)  and the 2011 Ascilite Innovation and Excellence Award)

Project Leaders

Simon McIntyre: Project Leader and Manager

Rick Bennet: Co-Project Leader

Karin Watson: Co-Project Manager

Input from a variety of different institutions and teachers

The program

The program is delivered in a sequence of structured steps. Each episode contains a video and a pdf  which together, explain one pedagogical issue related to planning, teaching and evaluating online units/courses. Case studies explain examples of best practice and scope the issues, successes and failures. Technical support episodes explain how to get started with specific online technologies. A forum of discussion threads provide links and support for the community of users.

Each video presents a multitude of pertinent and insightful observations, comments, advice and snippets of experience by teachers and experts in the field, and this is particularly engaging for the viewer. The accompanying PDF provides detailed written information which complements the audio-visual resource.

The Learning to Teach Online project structure, showing the relationship between the suite of training episodes, the various online dissemination points and the Learning to Teach Online Forum community (from http://online.cofa.unsw.edu.au/learning-to-teach-online/about-the-project)

The episodes: context, planning and teaching

Under each episode link, I have listed some of the issues I noted as the various interviewees made comments 

Why is online teaching important?

http://online.cofa.unsw.edu.au/learning-to-teach-online/ltto-episodes?view=video&video=157

  • The internet is rapidly changing the way we learn, as society is increasingly dependent upon online communication
  • Online teaching provides for cross-disciplinary, cross-campus, diverse learning opportunities and experiences
  • It allows students to access and share information and to create/paticipate in communities of common interest
  • It is a challenge to get blended learning experience right: physical and virtual time and space
  • On campus time can become much more productive in blended learning settings
  • Online learning is not an optional extra, its essential and mandatory
  • The central question is how to use technology effectively, to support learning
  • Students understand the potential, teachers dont necessarily see the potential
  • Time, resources and knowledge needs to be invested in innovative professional development of academic staff

Managing your time when teaching online 

http://online.cofa.unsw.edu.au/learning-to-teach-online/ltto-episodes?view=video&video=161

  • Effective use of the technology can save time, and inefficient use wastes time
  • Anywhere, anytime access suits individual schedules
  • Not necessarily time saving for teachers: need to schedule and manage time, put boundaries on time spent online
  • Initially takes more time to setup; subsequent iterations take less time
  • Ineffective use of technology = ineffective teaching
  • Simple pedagogies are most successful in targeting learning and reducing unnecessary time
  • Teachers and students have more control over their use of time: flexible (eg. more time to reflect when learning or assessing)
  • Students will not have the same learning schedule, access times will vary
  • Provide flexibility with submissions to cater for students’ schedules and life – eg. due 9am Monday, extension requests by 5pm Friday
  • Changes how time is used, not necessarily more time
  • Continuous mentoring is best: small, regular chunks of moderation and input, and regular feedback

Integrating online resources into your teaching

http://online.cofa.unsw.edu.au/learning-to-teach-online/ltto-episodes?view=video&video=241

  • There is a lot of valid open source material on the web but be aware of its source and copyright license
  • University library databases have current research
  • Screencasts and video resources can capture technical details and processes that cant be captured in any other manner
  • Everything on the web is copyright protected
  • Link to text on the web, rather than copy it
  • Check university copyright policies for how you acan link to and use online resources
  • There is a growing  trend toward OER (Open Education Resources) such as MIT Open Courseware website www.ocw.mit.edu and The Creative Commons www.creativecommons.org.au website
  • Dont feel like you have to invent the wheel – other people have and there are many valid and relevant resources online that can be sourced and add multiple voices to resources
  • Consider pedagogy before technology
  • The technology supports the teaching strategy, not the reverse
  • It must align with the learning outcomes and be suitable for the student group
  • Beginners should start with something simple and check the effectiveness of the specific technology
  • Limit the number of tools, scaffold these via year level
  • Make sure the technology is contextually appropriate
  • Be informed and make your choices sustainable: make it fit for purpose, not an add-on
  • Must add to learning or challenge students’ learning
  • Teach students how to use the technology tool you introduce
  • Explain to students why you are asking them to use the specific technologies
  • when choosing technology, consider: intended learning outcomes, students situation, activities and technical requirements of course content, teacher’s own experience, policies and requiremnets of the technology, cost of technology
  • Look at the UNSW Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching wiki and the learning outcomes x technology tools matrix (http://online.cofa.unsw.edu.au/learning-to-teach-online/ltto-episodes?view=video&video=243) for ideas

Online teamwork and collaboration

 http://online.cofa.unsw.edu.au/learning-to-teach-online/ltto-episodes?view=video&video=267

  • Many students find group work and online team work challenging
  • Teamwork underpins what students will do in the workplace – authentic learning
  • Explain the importance and relevance of teamwork before commencing – its how the real work works
  • Link groupwork to assessment and audit/moderate their contribution
  • Make it clear: the more work they do in groups, the better their result
  • Lead by example: encourage, guide and nurture students through the process
  • Develop trust by bonding with the group and encouraging them to bond with each other. Have a presence and encourage theirs in the online environment
  • Provide peer moderation opportunities to enable them to evaluate each other’s contribution
  • Allocate marks for individual student contribution

 Conducting effective online discussions

http://online.cofa.unsw.edu.au/learning-to-teach-online/ltto-episodes?view=video&video=235

  • Online discussion boards offer equal opportunities for communication, peer learning and active engagement
  • Students arent put on the spot to respond – affords reflection and time to think before response
  • Some students dominate discussion whilst other NESB may not participate
  • Discussion boards enable quieter students to contribute without threat
  • Great for mapping ideas and contesting ideas
  • Collaborative work spaces enable the teacher to answer questions for the whole community – rather than an individual
  • Facilitates multiple points of interaction, collaboration and connection
  • Peer to peer discussions enable students to sort out concerns and questions about the content – learn from each other
  • Attendance isnt measured in the same way as a face to face class – posts indicate presence
  • Important to get students to regular post in meaningful ways to encourage students to ‘be bothered’ to log in and participate
  • Criteria such as maximum words in a post and the expected tone (formal or informal) of language etc s important
  • Involve students in the moderation of posts when there are multiple threads/discussions
  • Use large group discussions to encompass broad concepts and small groups for group work and peer feedback
  • Use discussion boards for question and answer tasks or for brainstorming/problem solving/analysis or idea sharing or for social interaction and bonding with the group
  • Decide if discussion is to be assessed. In some situations this will encourage participation
  • Ensure students understand the technology. Provide scaffolded training in early classes
Some useful strategies for moderating online discussions:
  • Explain criteria, expectations and purpose of discussion to students
  • Create deadlines for discussion contributions
  • Participate and guide students throughout the discussion
  • Be positive, friendly, encourage students and highlight good examples of participation
  • Summarise the conversation at intervals to affirm and provide guidance as to what is most relevant
  • Guide, dont dominate discussion
  • Deal with issues privately, not via the forum
  • Use synchronous discussion (chat rooms, Skype, iChat etc) for instant communication, feedback and quick answers
  • Use asynchronous discussion (forums, google groups, voice thread, moodle chat, twitter etc) to archive discussion and allow for flexible reponses

 Planning your online class

http://online.cofa.unsw.edu.au/learning-to-teach-online/ltto-episodes?view=video&video=219

  • Importance of pedagogy before technology
  • Align assessment with learning outcomes
  • Start with curriculum design and qulaity learning experiences
  • Sharp focus on teaching and learning, not technology
  • Communicate with students: how will it benefit their learning
  • Start slowly and simply, start with one course and analyse and evaluate prior to next
  • Develop content specific to online delivery, dont shoehorn face to face content in an online envrionment
  • Adapt and move the content and pedagogy of what doesnt work well in a face-to-face setting, online
  • Enrich and develop the key activities of a face-to-face setting with online activities
  • Content
  • When designing units: focus on how students learn, the development of their cognitive ability and the exploration of their ideas and techniques. If you focus on these things, then the technology will be meaningful and will create opportunities for learning, that a face-to-face setting doesnt
  • Align what you tell students with how the assignment is presented, how the activities are designed and how the assessment is done. Focus on the main assignment, then design the supplementary assignment, then plan how to get students talking and thinking and reading about the subject of the unit and what is related to the assessment
  • Online assessment allows self-assessment about criteria and feedback as well
  • Information engagement needs to be considered, as technology understanding masks what students dont know – their information literacy
  • Build scaffolded learning into units of study, to develop ongoing e-awareness in students, over subsequent sessions and years of a course
  • Get assistance to support you with this: university instructional designers, academic developers, perspectives on what others are doing

 Engaging and motivating students

http://online.cofa.unsw.edu.au/learning-to-teach-online/ltto-episodes?view=video&video=221

  •  Diminishing engagement of students within a class usually indicates a problem with the online learning design
  • Create an interactive collaborative learning environment in ways that students enjoy
  • Teacher presence is essential: students must sense that presence
  • Establish connection and presence in the first two weeks as this is a strong motivator for students
  • Provide adequate technical support
  • Be ‘the guide on the side’. Answer questions promptly and provide timely feedback. Acknowledge students’ contributions
  • International students and students from NESB find online environments challenging and usually participate minimally, if at all
  • Some students open up in an online space whereas they may not in the face-to-face classroom
  • Online learning environments are democratic and it is useful to exploit this through developing the social nature of the learning environment
  • Use social networks to draw students out, build community and share learning
  • Privately contact students who are not participating and ask them if they need assistance to facilitate greater involvement
  • Post a community message on the noticeboard to provide positive feedback on how the online learning environment is going
  • Students comments and dialogue online has value for others in the community
  • Teacher can create value by linking the online learning situation to assessment. e.g. criteria could include regularity of contributions, depth of analysis and synthesis of the topic, constructive criticism and suggestions offered to other students’ posts
  • Establish clear groundrules and specific criteria to establish a code of participation
  • Indicate through a rubric, what they have to do to get a Credit/Distinction/High Distinction etc
  • Establish procedures for dealing with misunderstanding, arguments and bullying and make these clear from the outset
  • Moodle is a centralised, closed, learning management system (LMS) or virtual learning environment (VLE)
  • An LMS guarantees flows of information and handling of assignments that is not available with open web environments
  • Moodle has statistical analysis potential for managing student learning
  • An LMS is a collection of tools that can be found in multiple web apps – a toolbox
  • Open web apps don’t offer the means for formally assessing students in the same way as an LMS
  • Free open web apps usually have limitations for use and dont come with technical support – be sure to check these prior to using, however they are accessible to other collaborators – ie global partners and external guests
  • Moodle is a safe structured environment with lots of tools that support teaching, learning and assessment in a non-public environment
  • Other web apps can be used to compliment the learning experiences offered by the LMS – eg google docs, Facebook
Stay posted for a future post reporting on the Case Studies: a series of 16 videos that encompass the specific use of pedagogies and technologies in online learning environments

creative commons logoUnless otherwise noted, content on the Learning to Teach Online site is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives (by-nc-nd) 2.5 Australia License.

2 thoughts on “Learning to Teach Online: online.cofa.unsw.edu.au

  1. I am pleased to hear of this great resource. I knew Rick Bennett via ACODE a number of years ago and his team developed an amazing online platform for supporting online learning with a groupwork focus, and for a while i was hoping we were going to be able to use it at UOW, specially for our Creative Arts courses -the staff were keen. And here we are in 2012, and i’m wondering if Rick and his team would be interested to collaborate with UOW to wrap a 7-week course design around these resources, offer it to the world as a MOOC, and co-teach/facilitate it as a collaborative, cross-institutional effort?

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