Saturday, June 14, 2014

Arenas for learning, workshop at EDEN 2014

What characterizes a dynamic learning environment and how does this affect our choice of learning environments and tools? These were the questions behind a workshop I organised with my colleague from Linnaeus University, Linda Reneland-Forsman, at this week's EDEN conference in Zagreb, Croatia.

Summary of our discussions on Padlet
The workshop grew out of an article we wrote last year, Completion Rates – A False Trail to Measuring Course Quality? (EURODL 2013), where we suggested that we tackle the issue of completion rates by focusing on enhancing student interaction and creating truly dynamic learning arenas. We found that courses with low completion rates had several key features in common: too much focus on text-based communication, no guidelines for students, no synchronous meetings, static course environment, invisible individual processes. How do we design courses that make learning processes more visible and foster a dynamic and supportive community?

After our brief input on these themes we divided the participants into groups. The conference participants formed their face-to-face groups and we also had an online group who were following the workshop via Adobe Connect. The results of the discussions can be viewed on our common Padlet page which also includes some useful links and our presentation slides.

So how do we make a difference? How do we make courses more dynamic and collaborative and thereby significantly raise the level of student engagement? Here is a summary of conclusions:
  • Synchronous helps build community faster than asynchronous
  • Social presence is important, building up a digital identity.
  • Make the course collaborative and co-operative, also encourage engagement.
  • Reflection by all at the end of each unit (on own experience and on the learning process)
  • Authentic assessment that relates to work situations.
  • Get everybody on board - even the "observers" 
  • Teamwork: assignments that require interactions. For example the jigsaw method where each student has different information about a problem and only by collaborating can they solve it).
  • Create a debate within students – contextualize (how do you do it in your own world?)
  • Number of interactions and richness of types of interactions as an indicators of engagement.
  • Importance of feedback, both from teacher and from fellow students. Giving feedback needs to be trained from the start. Variety of feedback also vital (more audio and video).
  • Rethink how we handle traditional tasks.
Regardless of whether a course is on campus, blended or completely online we need to create a feeling of community and collective responsibility from the very start. Each student needs to feel acknowledged and supported with clear information and guidance to each part of the course. Assessment and feedback is a collective responsibility and assignments must be relevant to real practice. To assist in this there are many tools and methods, both digital and "analogue", and the crucial factor is being able to use the right mix for each course. Let's move away from a pointless "blame game" about completion rates in online education and focus on making all courses as engaging and challenging as possible. Then the completion rates should take care of themselves. 

No comments:

Post a Comment