With my previous experience with Online Teaching I have discovered the developed the following methods which enable both Tutor and Student to achieve success. This experience is more suited to developing courses in creative studies, such as, photography, graphic design and so on…
Course Structure by Tutor
The main difference between teaching within a classroom and a virtual one is the margin for ambiguity. Students learning via an online medium are more likely to lose their way in a lesson agenda or structure. To combat the likelihood of losing or demoralising students, a lesson needs to be presented in two ways:
1. Written Structure
A written structure should provide a step-by-step/ narrative approach to performing a lesson task or activity, the learner needs continues reassurance in the form of precise actions and expected outcomes. Not doing so can cause the learner to spiral with problems when trying to troubleshoot a break in instruction, immediate feedback is not available to the learner, so it’s good practice to provide an FAQ section where the learner can resolve any expected problems.
A written document also provides structure to those with hearing and visual difficulties, this approach can also be used as a quick reference guide, to those looking for “rewind learning”.
I have found this document should be written in the fist person with an informal tone and should never link to a source of information provided by third party (external link to website). The reasons for not using external links are due un-guaranteed quality of content, change of content, availability of content and security of content. Using an external link can also devalue the lesson agenda. If reference to external content needs to be used, a copy should be provided with citation.
2. Audio/ Visual Structure
Using an audio/ visual structure to accompany the written structure is also essential, providing this reenforces the application of a task or activity. This audio/ visual can be in the form of a screencast or video illustrating the lesson task/ activity throughout. In my experience it’s best practice to use a condensed version of the written structure as a script when recording, this will reduce inconstancies, stay on track, provide a relationship to the provided written structure and reduce (if any) post production (editing).
Leaners can also analyse their own progress with comparisons, which can later lead to evaluation and critique of their own work – reenforcing the self-learning process. The use of an audio/ visual structure is essential but, (in my experience) it needs to be kept to a maximum time limit of 20 minutes, without the support or a classroom environment learners can lose stimulation and become daunted by an audio/ visual structure of a longer time. This time is likely to double as the learner follows the task/ activity by pausing and un-pausing the audio/ visual.
Creating a structure for Online Learning involves a lot of preparation, I feel it’s very important to offer a newly written structure to a test audience, to highlight out any inconsistencies or ambiguity. This good prep time will pay off in the long run with a higher pass rate, personal referrals and fewer support requests.
Learning Evaluation and Feedback
There are limited methods of confirming if learning has or is taking place in an online environment. However, I have found that feedback can effectively take place with available online applications, such as a Course Group Forum provided by the Moodle CMS (Content Management System). Using a forum to answer course related questions and confirm learning should be provided each day, for a maximum of one hour. Email should not be used to communicate with learners as this can confuse the inquiry process.
Each task/ activity should result in an outcome that can be uploaded to a submission area, marking and feedback should be given online via the Moodle CMS in the form of a ‘private’ message or similar. The use of ‘multiple choice questions’ and ‘question and answer’ activities are also a great way to asses if learning is taking place. The Tutor can provide instant feedback by confirming results in a score rating and highlighting wrong answers, to my knowledge the Moodle CMS provides this feature as standard.
Support should be provided by the Tutor to help with learning. Questions about technical issues need to be addressed by an IT Support staff, who can quickly troubleshoot any problems. Personal issues or private issues (in my opinion) should be addressed by telephone and explaining their situation and requesting support. Pastoral care should not be given via email or course forum due to the likelihood of miscommunication.