I have recently completed my first taught online learning course. It’s on Digital Teaching, it’s a self-paced and can be found on a site called tdni.org and the specific course can be accessed here if you’re interested!
But I’m not writing to plug a course I’ve written. I’m writing because I thought it would be a good point to share some of the lessons I have learned in creating a course that people (teachers in fairness) would be interested in starting, but also engaging enough to make them want to complete it.
In this post, I am going to discuss some of the ways to create online learning courses that will effectively engage learners.
Encourage Learners to Write
Research has shown that one of the most effective mechanisms a teacher can engage learners in course content is by making use of writing exercises. These can be very effective teaching tools because they reinforce memory, and also allow learners to explore the ideas and concepts of their learning in a thoughtful and reflective manner. By writing, expressing an argument or thought, we can explain what we mean and discuss the importance of a topic.
It’s one of the reasons I started this site: by writing about educational technology, technology enhanced learning, or e-learning, I provide the means for educating myself. Through my own writing, I have learned and continue to learn about the topic that interests me. And thankfully, you find it interesting too, or you wouldn’t be here now.
Writing gives us the means to expand on our thoughts and develop our thinking and explain our positions more carefully and with greater insight. Jordan Peterson, a controversial figure to some, says this about writing: “The primary reason to write an essay is so that the writer can formulate and organise an informed, coherent and sophisticated set of ideas about something important.”
Becoming a better writer is a way to become a better thinker and being able to arrange your thoughts in a coherent fashion puts your thought process in order so you can better analyse it.
If you identify a topic that is of interest to you, then you have move yourself into alignment with the deeper levels of your spirit. If these deeper levels do not want or need an answer to the question you are posing, then you will not really be interested in it. So the fact of your interest is evidence of the importance of the topic. You need to find an answer — and these needs can run deep enough that require a large amount of time, research, devotion and thought on the topic.
Writing gives you access to the bigger questions that you want to grapple with. Investigating them makes you a better thinker. And in this context, being a better thinker makes you a better teacher. By encouraging our students to write, you encourage their thinking.
Explore Collaborative Learning
When you’re designing an online learning course, strongly consider the incorporation of collaborative learning into your online learning. Collaborative learning is not only incredibly effective at stimulating critical thinking within learners, but it also allows learners to develop interpersonal skills by working together as a group.
As part of an individualistic society, we often struggle to make development of interpersonal skills a priority within our education programmes. Additionally, the solitary nature of online learning can sometimes make incorporating collaborative learning exercises into online learning experiences difficult.
However, particularly when it comes to learning, the development of interpersonal skills is a crucially important contributory factor to the success of learners. One of the easiest ways to incorporate collaborative learning into online learning experiences is through the use of discussion forums. By creating discussion boards that foster student interaction, you can encourage learners to work together and successfully collaborate on course material.
Get Creative With Your Course Design
One of the major benefits of online learning is that it allows educators to be more creative than ever with their course design. For example, if media training is part of your online learning course, consider having an activity where learners run a Twitter campaign, and give an incentive to the learner who can get the most likes and retweets.
By using social media and the wealth of information that the Internet can provide, you can easily design creative online learning experiences that consistently introduce learners to content in new and engaging ways, therefore keeping them engaged in the learning process.
Consider also using some more progressive elements of traditional teaching, such as incorporating elements of the flipped classroom (in which learners watch instructional video outside of class time and then use class time or instructor meetings to ask questions or work on assignments) to further engage learners.
Make Active Learning a Core Element of Your Online Learning
Experience active learning exercises, were learners are asked to practically apply the knowledge they gain to a specific assignment or situation, should be an important part of any good online learning experience. This is particularly important for learning, in which being able to model good learning before being assessed is tremendously beneficial to learners.
Other options for improving engagement with active learning that take full advantage of online learning environments can include using interactive content as a major component of your courses, such as interactive infographics, videos, and game-based learning. You can take interaction even further by incorporating gamification into your online learning programmes.
There is so much herethat can be used in the classroom!
You might not be setting up an online course anytime soon. But perhaps there are aspects of this topic you could consider with your classes. The ability to write and express ideas is a crucial skill, particularly with A-Level classes in subjects where the strength of persuasive argument is a core skill. Active learning is a concept that moves beyond child-centred education and gives the child an active role in their learning. Collaborative learning can be a useful tool for learning as it teaches children to think, work together and develop skills that are now required in the workplace.
The skills developed online can be put to effective use in the classroom to help develop how a pupil thinks, works with others and solves problems creatively.