Keynote: Online Course Design for Active Learning within the UDL Framework

This past fall, I gave my first keynote presentation at the University of Houston (UH) to faculty and staff. Their 1-day conference, Innovative Teaching and Learning at a Distance (ITLD), focused on the Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Several of the co-authors for the Routledge book, Universal Access Through Inclusive Instructional Design: International Perspectives on UDL (Gronseth & Dalton, 2019), were invited to give sessions. Mine addressed online course design for active learning within the UDL framework. See my blog post on this topic for more details. This presentation is hosted on SlideShare.

I also provided a pre-conference workshop on how to use my Online Community of Inquiry Syllabus Rubric (copyright 2015 by Rogers & Van Haneghan). In both sessions, I used Mentimeter to engage the participants, as well as pair-share activities. Both sessions were well received. Some of the instructional designers stated that they want to use my rubric for their work and research! I had such a wonderful time at the UH, and the ITLD staff and professors were very kind to me. I’m a Texan, so I appreciated the Texas hospitality!

Blog #200: My New Instructional Design Job at UCLA

Sandra Rogers stands in front of the UCLA Bruin bear statue
UCLA is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year!
How I Got to Here

After completing my doctoral program in 2017, I looked for employment that would utilize and reward my Ph.D. and research efforts. I was working for a small college near my alma mater for which I am grateful to have had my start as an instructional designer (ID). My reference to how I got here refers to leaving a small college to work for the number one public university in the US. One of my new acquaintances said my work experience sounded like I was a ’20-year overnight success’! Jokes aside, all my past work experience (20 years as an educator + 7 as an ID) has lead me to this new role. View my LinkedIn Profile to learn more.

I’d like to give a shout out to the Educause Listserv for instructional designers for alerting me to this position. When I read the posting from the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), I knew I had a good chance because I met all the criteria including the preferred ones. This was due to my broad work experience including fellowships and partly from my serving as the only ID for a small college and wearing multiple hats (e.g., designer, trainer, learning management system administrator). By 2019, I had fined tuned my resume, portfolio, and interview skills after submitting 25+ applications and landing relevant interviews with the Carnegie Foundation, Harvard, and Global LT.

My New Role

I’m part of a team of 5 IDs working on the UCLA Chancellor’s initiative for online teaching and learning. We’re a diverse team in our skill set and experience with shared education and interests. I’ve been on the job for six months now and have learned so much from my team and colleagues across campus. There are other IDs on our campus working to support specific departments or academic units, while we assist any instructor who’s interested in designing a hybrid or fully online course in our new Instructional Design Studio.

I’m currently co-designing two new courses with different instructors that will be offered in Spring quarter. UCLA uses Moodle as their LMS. I blogged about one of the courses I’m co-designing for the new minor in urban literature for the English Department. It’s a hybrid Irish literature course. The other course is for the Classics Department and will cover medical terminology through the sociocultural and historical context of Greek and Latin. For that course, I’m  co-developing H5P interactive learning objects to review course concepts and terminology. See my blog post on H5P: Free Software.

My other role as instructional designer is to support existing online courses and provide technical training. I’ve been able to shadow and learn from one of my new colleagues that has been at UCLA for many years. I’m helping her support existing courses (e.g., refreshing dates, checking links, configuring TA discussion sessions), as well as transitioning to new technologies. For example, UCLA instructors will use Respondus LockDown Browser and Monitor for unproctored online tests. I used this at my prior workplace, so I’ve taken the initiative to learn all I can to train my team, instructors, and TAs, as well as develop supporting documents (e.g, FAQs, practice tests, student guides).

Challenges

Any new job comes with a learning curve. For technologists, it’s even steeper! I wasn’t familiar with designing courses on Moodle nor Canvas, which are both used for distance education in the UC system. My first month on the job I had to learn both of these in addition to workplace culture, university policy, UCLA campus, and all the acronyms used to describe the various learning communities of practice. Plus, I decided to get a new type of computer, a MS Surface Pro (tablet with stylus and detachable keyboard and special dongle for connections). My transition would have been a lot easier if I had gone with something familiar.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to learn my way around Los Angeles because I lived here 20 years ago. It was a challenge moving across the country and leaving my house behind to be setup as rental property for the first time. I’m feeling settled in now. I’ve even reconnected with old friends here. I also have family in California. Other LA challenges have been the earthquakes this summer and the nearby fires this fall. I’ve got my emergency kit in the car and backpack in the house.

Next Steps

It looks like our new office space will be ready upon our return on Jan 2nd. I look forward to working with my teammates and instructors in our new space. We’re housed in the Young Research Library on campus that has great multimedia interactive pod spaces and the 451 Cafe area where we can meet with instructors besides are office space. I have 4 other new courses in the initial planning phase that I’ll report on as they develop. They are all equally exciting to me. I feel extremely blessed to have this opportunity.


I can’t believe this is my 200th blog! As mentioned on #199, I’ve gone back and revised blogs as I’ve grown academically. If you’ve been with me for the past decade, thank you! If you’re a new reader, welcome. What comes next may be a podcast or vlog. I’d love to hear your feedback.

Cheers!

Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

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VR with Google Cardboard for Irish Literature Hybrid Course

 

Google VR headset is made of cardboard
Google Cardboard comes premade and only needs refolding for use with smartphone.

I’m co-designing a new Irish literature hybrid course where college students will use Google Cardboard with their mobile phone applications (app) for virtual reality (VR) experiences with 360 media. This is my first time preparing VR learning experiences, and I wanted to share what I’ve figured out so far. This is a work-in-progress in prep for spring quarter, so I’ll continue to return to this blog with updates as I learn more.

Course Description

The English course is lecture-based and will include other interactive technologies for blogging reflections, annotating text, and georeferencing sites. For their virtual travel blog, students will view selected areas in Ireland that are referenced in the literature and write a reflection. Our team will use both professionally made and self-produced 360 VR media of the Dublin environs that match specific instances described by Irish lyricists, poets, and writers. Here’s a professional VR example of Glendalough, an Irish monastic cemetery.

Purpose

The purpose of using VR is to provide a sense of being there. It provides the viewer with the sense of being present within the 360 media. It removes the artifice of flattened images and stills. It serves as a virtual field trip for situated learning when actual travel is not a viable option.

Technologies

Any VR device manufacturer and app will suffice; we selected the Google Cardboard as a low cost option. Our students will install the free Google Cardboard App on their smartphone. Those without a smartphone can tab through the 360 images on their desktop.

Unfortunately, the Google Cardboard app isn’t compatible with all phones! My husband tried to install it on his LG Android that’s only 2 years old, and it states it’s not compatible. Here are industry recommendations:  “In general, Cardboard apps and games will work with any Android 4.1 or above phone and even iPhones, as long as they’re running iOS 8 or above” (3G, 2019, para. 12). 

We’re using the free Google Cardboard camera app to capture spherical VR images and videos. It’s fairly easy to use and share images between smart devices. However, sharing VR media in a course setting presents a challenge, as it requires a VR hosting platform to view. Our learning management system (LMS) uses Kaltura for video hosting, which states that it supports 360 video for VR interactions. So far, it’s not working. Our workaround is to use a free basic account with 360cities.net to host our VR media for the course. Keep the full size of your original VR image, as reducing the size corrupts (flattens) it.

I practiced capturing photos with the Google Cardboard Camera app. It instructs you to hold the phone vertically and snap the photo and rotate 360 degrees with your phone to capture your surroundings. I noticed that by focusing on the main object with the first snap, you’re left with a slightly visible vertical line where the images don’t match up. To avoid ruining your focal point, begin the first snap to the side of the main feature. The Cardboard camera photos are cylindrical. They don’t capture the ground or sky above. You’ll see blue for sky and grey for ground, but there’s a distinct line between the image and artifice.

VR Viewing Procedure

From your smartphone, access the linked content via the web or, in our instance, course page on the LMS app. Select the icon for VR to enable it.  Then place the phone in the Google Cardboard device. You may need to remove your phone’s protective case for it to fit. The experience will feel as if you’re there instead of looking at a picture. The intended VR experience should provide situated cognition of the environs and, as is the case with our course, neural connections to the topic of study.

Some VR experiences include annotated media. The Google Cardboard device has a metal button on it that you use to select projected annotations. The mobile app also comes with some great examples from around the world. Right now, I’m reviewing Irish content readily available on the free Google Expeditions app that provides both VR and augmented reality (AR) experiences. If you have experience with any of the aforementioned technologies, or want to suggest related ones, please leave a comment below.


Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

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Universal Access Through Inclusive Instructional Design: International Perspectives on UDL

The logo has the word accessibility with four icons on it: eye, hand, ear, and brain.

I’d like to let you know about the first edition of Universal Access Through Inclusive Instructional Design: International Perspectives on UDL from Routledge.  It’s co-edited by the Society of Information Technology and Teacher Educations’s Universal Design for Learning (UDL) special interest group Co-chairs, Drs. Susie Gronseth (University of Houston) and Elizabeth Dalton (University of Rhode Island).

This book “explores the ways that educators around the world reduce barriers for students with disabilities and other challenges by planning and implementing accessible, equitable, high-quality curricula. Incorporating key frameworks such as Universal Design for Learning, these dynamic contributions highlight essential supports for flexibility in student engagement, representation of content, and learner action and expression.”

I wrote a snapshot for this book on the following: Using the YouTube Automated Captioning Tool for Video Lectures. It’s based on my work at Spring Hill College in designing its new online Theology program. See my abstract below.

Abstract

“This snapshot describes the use of the YouTube automated captioning tool as a low-cost means for do-it-yourself captioning of video lectures to meet the federal guidelines for distance education. A graduate program took this approach when adapting their courses to the online environment, even though they had no prior experience with YouTube channels or captioning. With technical support from their instructional designer, they successfully launched their unlisted YouTube channels with their video lectures. In the process, they noticed how they optimized the course environment in accordance with the Universal Design of Learning (UDL) framework.”

There are many more instructional design snapshots for each chapter. Check it out!  Free review in eBook format available for instructors considering this book for course adoption.

References

Gronseth, S. L., & Dalton, E. M. (Eds.). (2019). Universal access through inclusive instructional design: International perspectives on UDL. New York, NY: Routledge.

Rogers, S. (2019). Snapshot – Using the YouTube automated captioning tool for video lectures. In S. L. Gronseth & E. M. Dalton (Eds.), Universal access through inclusive instructional design: International perspectives on UDL. New York, NY: Routledge.


P.S. Our book was displayed at the Routledge table at the AECT conference in Las Vegas.

Sandra Rogers is holding the educational book in which she is a co-author. She's standing in front of a table of other books displayed by Routledge.

Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

Join me at AECT 2019 in Las Vegas!

The word, Inspired, is written against a purple splash of paint.
AECT 2019 Inspired Theme logo

Association for Educational Communications and Technology

The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) is a fantastic professional organization for instructional designers, instructional technologists, educational technology support staff, instructors, and education researchers. Why? Because they do fun stuff like ‘Breakfast with Champions’ and ‘Game Night.’   I learned about it from my professors in my doctoral program who promoted AECT and their educational technology standards to their students. AECT’s 2019 international convention will be held in Las Vegas, NV from October 21st-25th at the Convention Center. This year’s convention theme is Inspired Professional Learning. Inspired Learning Professionals. Let me know if you plan to attend so we can network and attend sessions and events together.

Sessions

I’m excited to share that the following three presentations were accepted! I’m really happy to be able to lead an Inspire! session, which is a new format to provide 50-minute professional development without the extra cost.  I invite you to attend my sessions below.

Host: Design and Development (D&D) Division

Magis Instructional Design Model for Transformative Teaching, Dr. Sandra Rogers

Wed, Oct 23, 10:00 to 10:20am, Convention Center, Pavilion 6 (Note: I’m first in this concurrent session.)

Description. The Magis Instructional Design Model endeavors to transform teaching online through the lens of critical pedagogy to place the human in a real-world context as much as possible through learning experiences and reflection. The goal being transformative learning experiences instead of transmissive ones that use the antiquated banking model of education. The model includes instructional strategies from the cognitive and affective domains. The Author asks for input and feedback on this model.

Host: D&D: Instructional Design in Context – Service

Roadmap to Reentry Resources in Mobile County to Prevent Recidivism Service Project, Dr. Sandra Rogers, Dr. Demetrius Semien, & Aubrey Whitten

Wed, Oct 23, 2:20 to 2:50pm, Convention Center, Ballroom C (Note: We’re second in this session.)

Description. Would you like to start a service project? Consider creating a Google Map of service providers that meet a strong need in your community (food deserts, homeless shelters, or the previously incarcerated). Presenters will share their service project developing a reentry map of service providers to combat recidivism in their community. Learn to plot locations, draw pathways, and add information to a Google Map. Participants will also share what they are doing in their communities.

Host: Culture, Learning, and Technology (CLT) Inspire!

Safeguard Your Online Persona by Using Various Techniques and Technologies, Dr. Sandra Rogers

Oct 25, 9:00 to 9:50am, Convention Center, Conference Rm 1 (Note: Workshop format so bring your devices!)

Description. Have you googled yourself lately? What does the Internet search reveal about you? With each hashtag, blog post, tweet, and online project, you are building your online reputation whether you want to or not. In the absence of professional branding, your online persona brands you. Learn to curate your online personal data (e.g., Google Alert for keywords & reverse search images) and leave with an action plan.

Handouts

For AECT members, I’ll place my presentation and paper on the conference online portal. For my blog readers, I posted my presentations to SlideShare and embedded them here.

In closing, the sessions at AECT are really good. The organization’s special interest groups are dynamic. Conference-goers are very open to making new friends and learning, and this includes the big names in the field. You may find yourself sitting beside David Wiley, Curt Bonk, Lloyd Rieber, Amy Bradshaw, or George Veletsianos!

Breakfast table with invited guest and Wheaties box in the center
Breakfast with Champion, George Veletsianos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do instructional designers do in higher education?

Sandra sitting at her computer in her office

The work and the placement of instructional designers vary from institution to institution. For instance, my former position was with the Library and Instructional Resources Services. My new position is with a Chancellor’s initiative for online teaching and learning. As for job tasks, if you’re the only designer on campus, you wear many hats. Conversely, you could be a part of a team with several designers. Most of the designers I know are mostly focused on designing and developing online courses, but this is not always the case. Course developers are generally instructional technologists or media specialists.

TASKS

To illustrate specifically the work of an instructional designer, here are the activities listed from my resume:

  • Collaborated with faculty to develop 25 new hybrid and online courses for Theology and MBA graduate programs;
  • Conducted quality assurance reviews of all (80) online courses;
  • Wrote the Online Course Design Guide for faculty that addresses accessibility and copyright requirements, research-based practices for teaching and learning, and the collaboration process with the instructional designer;
  • Managed knowledge via Instructional Design LibGuide for faculty and students;
  • Trained faculty on educational technologies, andragogy, and how to make their online courses accessible;
  • Supported the Schoology learning management system (LMS) administrator with troubleshooting issues, developing supporting documentation and video tutorials, and LMS adoption (Previously served as LMS administrator for eCollege);
  • Participated in the development of the College’s Quality Enhancement Plan;
  • Wrote documentation for the College’s accreditation process for distance education, conducted quality assurance checks of reports in Compliance Assist, and served on the Strategic Planning Software Support Team with IT to develop methods and identify platforms for the interchange of input from all stakeholders; and
  • Served on the Educational Technology Committee and co-wrote the draft Educational Technology Framework and Distance Education Policy.

SERVICE

Sometimes instructional designers also teach, mentor, and provide service to the community even though it is not required for staff. Here’s a list of my activities:

  • Co-taught undergraduate interdisciplinary course (IDS394) on digital citizenship and fact-checking online data at my college;
  • Co-coordinator of the New Day Experience reentry project to reduce recidivism in Mobile County for which I supervised three undergraduate students for sociology internship course (SOC299) in 2018-2019 and mentored six student volunteers from 2015-2017;
  • Educause Games and Learning Steering Committee;
  • Board Member of Emerald Coast TESOL & professional development officer;
  • Mentor for Foley Center- Mentored 40  student volunteer English language teachers for the College’s migrant education night program; and
  • Board Member of college’s Friends of the Library.

RESEARCH

Last, some instructional designers are also involved in research.  Read my Research Statement to learn about my activities.

What about you? If you’re an instructional designer, share how this differs or relates to your work.


Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

Teacherrogers Products
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Online Course Design for Active Learning within the UDL Framework

A wordcloud in the shape of a Rubik's cube with these main words from the blog on active learning: learning, students, course, provide, can, and UDL.

This is a WordCloud based on my blog post on active learning.

Active Learning Defined

Active learning engages students directly in the learning process through instructional activities with differing degrees of interaction that’s student-centered, whereas passive learning occurs indirectly and without interaction. The latter is often, but not always, teacher-centered. Student-centered learning emphasizes learner control and manipulation of information, so students can actively use what’s learned. Students respond well when they have a participatory voice in their learning.

Active learning is preferred because it triggers cognitive functioning. Additionally, it helps to gain or refocus students’ attention. Examples of active learning include the following:

  • Studio model with a teacher or student observations and feedback (e.g., writer’s workshop, art production, portfolios);
  • Problem-based learning;
  • Group work (e.g., business proposals, case studies, mixed media presentations);
  • Debates;
  • Gaming and simulations;
  • Metacognitive strategies to monitor self-learning;
  • Transference of knowledge to new problems and situations; and
  • Assessments that require analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

See the University of Michigan’s instructor worksheet to reflect on active learning opportunities you already use or would like to try.

UDL Defined

Universal Design refers to the consideration of the needs of persons with disabilities in regard to physical spaces, objects, and tasks. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) recognizes those needs for course design. Its main premise is equal access to education and extends this to all types of learners. Active learning aligns with the UDL framework when lessons provide multiple means of representation, multiple means of action and expression, and multiple means of engagement (CAST, 2018). See my blog post on UDL to learn more and test your knowledge.

What does active learning look like online?

Active learning can take on different formats, levels of engagement, and levels of complexity in setup. It can be for individual or group work. Online educators use the community of inquiry (COI) framework to ensure students are engaged with the content, each other, and the instructor to maximize learning. Social presence (SP), cognitive presence (CP), and teaching presence (TP) are the essential elements to the communication loop for an online COI (Garrison, Anderson, & Archer, 2000). This means that online learners are involved in cognitively challenging activities for CP (i.e., analysis, synthesis, evaluation), are able to interact with classmates for SP (e.g., discussions and projects), and that the teacher or student moderator is present in some way through communication, guidance, and feedback for TP. This aligns with the UDL goals to foster collaboration and community and to provide options for comprehension, communication, and executive functions (CAST, 2018).

Collaborative computer-mediated instructional strategies require interactive technologies such as videoconferencing tools for office hours and feedback, forum tools for asynchronous discussions, shared drive for collaborative documents, and portfolio or other platforms (e.g., blog, Google Sites, wiki) to share student work. These digital activities require clear guidelines for interacting with each other, the content, the teacher, and the tools in order to be effective (e.g., group roles, peer review criteria, schedule, samples, tool guides). Designing these opportunities for all students to access, build, and internalize information requires forethought.

Set the Stage for Active Learning

Tell your students what you expect of them in the online course. A best practice is to provide an introductory course overview with your syllabus, schedule, and protocol for interactions (Quality Matters, 2018). For some examples, see my blog on Student and Teacher Expectations for Online Courses. Share course requirements for the online environment and address learning values such as the growth mindset. This aligns with the UDL’s Checkpoint 9.1: “Promote expectations and beliefs that optimize motivation” (Cast, 2018).

Dweck (2009) described those who underestimate their ability to learn as possibly having a fixed mindset, while those who believe that they can learn by establishing attainable goals and applying effort to learn as having a growth mindset. Students with a growth mindset want to be corrected; their ego isn’t tied to learning. Conversely, those with a fixed mindset don’t pay attention to corrective feedback. They believe that learning shouldn’t take any effort because it’s tied to their intelligence; their ego influences how they learn. Students with a fixed mindset may be resistant to active learning. See my blog post to Focus on the Process to Support the Growth Mindset of Students. This process aligns with mastery-oriented feedback promoted by the UDL to sustain effort and persistence (CAST, 2018).

Second, make sure students know how to use the learning management system (LMS) prior to high-stakes assignments to reduce anxiety and to reduce the cognitive load for the overall task. Here are some useful tasks to help familiarize students with the LMS:

  • Student acknowledgment form submission to try out the assignment tool (i.e., course expectations),
  • ‘Getting Acquainted’ discussion,
  • Syllabus quiz to ensure students have read it (also practice test proctoring software if utilized in course), and
  • Poll practical experience on the course topic to better understand students’ prior knowledge on the subject and drive instruction to meet students’ needs.

This aligns with UDL’s Checkpoint 7.3 to provide a welcoming course climate and predictability of tasks (CAST, 2018).

Content Delivery

The lecture, demonstration, or direct instruction of a skill is a passive learning event unless students are provided ways to interact with the content. Consider using EdPuzzle, PlayPosit, or Camtasia Studio to engage learners while watching a video lecture or demonstration with questions to answer before preceding to the next segment. The former two premium tools provide instructors with learner analytics such as level of engagement, successful attempts, and grades.

Instructional strategies. Strategy selection depends on various affordances and constraints such as time and resources. For example, an activity-centered lesson is based on an interactive task and requires collaborative tools and student groupings. Content-centered lessons are passive tasks where the student generally only interacts with the content, the exception being discussions of content. Experience-centered activities require a hands-on approach to developing something or serving/working with others. The learner-centered activity provides the learner with more autonomy over their pursuit of knowledge and includes metacognitive actions for self-regulation of learning; the affordances and constraints for this type of activity are highly dependent on the task.

Overall, the best practice is to utilize a variety of instructional strategies to address learner preferences through multiple means of engagement and expression for the UDL. Here’s a list of online instructional strategies for each type.

Activity-Centered
Content-Centered
Experience-Centered
Learner-Centered
Analysis of case studies

Critically review an article

HyperInquiry* team project

Academic controversy** assignment

Develop a book trailer on topic

WebQuest

 

Pretest/Posttest

Write a literature review

Complete modules on topic in computer-adapted program

Write essay

Make a presentation

Discuss content with peers and instructor

 

Develop questionnaires

Develop a personal model of topic

Participate in a simulation

Develop a workshop

Develop a wiki on topic

Produce a podcast on topic

Develop a how-to guide on a procedure

Write a blog post on topic

Serve others as a mentor, tutor, or volunteer on topic

Curate an art exhibit

Peer-review of papers or projects

Students create m/c questions for review

Design a project

Evaluate a program

Write an autobiography of your interaction with topic

Complete self-evaluation

Develop a personal learning network

Capture reflections in journal, audio, or video

Curate digital books and articles on topic for lifelong learning

Notes. *HyperInquiry is like a Webquest but at a deeper level of inquiry (Dempsey & Litchfield, 2001). **Academic controversy is a debate where students eventually take both sides of an argument.

Learning strategies. Learning strategies are ways students can engage with the course readings and other content to monitor their learning. Cognitive learning strategies include concept mapping, mnemonics, overlearning, metaphors, and similes. Embed these learning strategies into your instructional activities to build students’ brain schema on the topic and its relation to other subjects for long-term memory. Share this list of cognitive strategies with students. The difference between cognitive and metacognitive being concreteness versus meta-awareness respectively. Most students are likely familiar with structurally cognitive ones such as concept maps but may not be familiar with the others. Share this student learning organizer of metacognitive strategies. Tying learner strategies to your instruction will make it more inclusive.

Discussions

Discussions can have well thought out open-ended questions provided by the instructor, student-generated questions, or no questions at all. For example, one instructor has had great success without providing questions in his online discussions. Instead, he tells students the purpose of discussions and that they’ll find suggestions for these by listening to his podcast or video lecture for that unit. To increase engagement in larger online courses, the University of California recommends short targeted discussions, role assignments, and subdivision of course material to get the students talking and keep them on task.

Roles. Provide structure and student agency to discussions by assigning roles (e.g., starter, responder, wrapper) and rotating those roles during the course. Additionally, this will prevent the same students from posting first and everyone else waiting to reply. Student-moderated discussions provide SP to the online COI. See blog post on how to plan for an online COI.

Media. Use the audio or video recording features to share responses besides the text-based option to provide novelty and multiple means of representation. Ask students to provide a visual created by the student that illustrates their learning along with their reflection. See Google Drawing illustrating a students’ understanding of reading regarding semiotic domains. This provides both TP and SP for the online COI. The exchange of media will close the psychological distance between you and your students.

Monitor. For equity, a best practice is to create a matrix of teacher-student interactions to track your response efforts over the course of the semester. Monitoring your discussion posts will curtail various biases and ensure consistency. Use a spreadsheet to do this and include personal information shared in the ‘Getting Acquainted’ discussion to provide a more personalized context for meaningful interactions with each student.

Assignments

Highly effective tasks are those which are situated within the actual task (authentic or simulated) or end goal for your course for near transfer of information to long-term memory. This is in contrast to far transfer tasks that are related but not exact. Situated learning occurs through different modes of co-participation based on situational factors (Lave & Wenger, 1991). Learning in one situational context may not transfer to another unless it closely mirrors it and the learner is properly prepared; therefore, authenticity is crucial to the learning situation (Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989).

Groupwork. Student-led projects provide student agency in the design of their own learning. Provide the parameters, team roles (e.g., team leader/organizer, researcher, writer, & presenter), and peer evaluation forms to ensure everyone participates fully. Include expectations for group grade such as everyone provides proofreading of assignment prior to submission. Encourage student groups to set up their own ground rules for group meetings and task sharing. Monitor group work by asking to be added to the document workspace such as a shared Google folder.

Presentations. As for hybrid courses, maximize the face-to-face meeting by asking students to present their work to each other during seminar sessions in their level one courses. This is referred to as flipped learning when you use class time for student activities instead of teacher-centered activities. For fully online courses, students can share their media presentations (e.g., narrated PowerPoints saved as MP4 files, podcasts, video projects) with other students in a media hosting site that allows students and teachers to provide feedback, as well as tags, titles, and captions.

Assessments

How can students demonstrate mastery besides multiple-choice tests? These are still useful for testing recall. However, to engage the learner in higher-order thinking skills, we should provide alternative assessments such as project-based learning, essays, portfolios, performance, products, and presentations. These don’t need to be end-of-term projects. Formative assessments can be formal or informal (practice tests, digital exit tickets, polls), which serve as comprehension checks and subsequent student feedback during the course. This is in contrast to summative assessments that test your cumulative knowledge on a topic at the end of the term. Formative assessments promote fairness by gathering evidence of students’ understanding throughout the course, which can be used to better inform/modify your instructional practices to meet students’ needs.

Testing is a learning event. Consider setting tests for multiple attempts to help students achieve mastery. This triggers new learning and/or review of content, as students revisit content for answers. Tolerance for error in course assignments also makes it more inclusionary. To prepare for a test, ask students to use the free tool PeerWise to create questions on the topic of study for each other to answer. Some instructors ask their students to submit questions for actual tests. In this scenario, students develop questions from the content according to its structure and importance.

Feedback & Guidance

Learning requires differing feedback loops offered at intervals throughout the course, hopefully, with just-in-time guidance. Feedback can come from intelligent tutors through computer adaptive programs, instructors, teaching assistants, peers, and subject matter experts from the professional field. Formats for feedback loops vary from discussions, recommended edits on a paper, rubrics, and assessments.

Rubrics. Rubrics establish the criteria and scale for various tasks such as discussions and assignments and make the expectations explicit. Rubrics provide consistency and speed with grading. Some electronic rubric features allow you to provide feedback at the criterion level and for overall performance. Additionally, you can tag your departmental student learning outcomes to these rubrics to help students understand why the task is important.

Scaffolded instructional feedback. Scaffolding instruction provides content in meaningful and manageable chunks of information. This entails providing visuals for structure, context, direction, and just-in-time definitions. For example, segment a lecture at viable points and ask reflective questions. For writing, break large tasks such as research papers into point-based phases of the writing process (e.g., outline, literature review with five citations, rough draft, final paper). Consider the UDL and design for tolerance for error by providing space to practice (e.g., mock interviews/comps/presentations, tutorials, simulations).

Peer feedback. It’s critical to provide guidelines and criteria for peer feedback tasks. This involves establishing roles, a clear project description, rubric, and instructions for tools used. For writing, assign a peer review of draft papers utilizing MS Word tracked changes or Google Docs suggested edits. Instructors can request access to the documents for review.

Conclusion

In summary, for active learning, students need the following:

  • Prep for learning events,
  • Situated learning environments for near transfer,
  • Planned multimodal interactions that are cognitively challenging,
  • Cognitive strategies,
  • Formative assessments and tasks as feedback loops, and
  • Metacognitive strategies to monitor their learning.

Review your understanding of active learning with this interactive reader developed by the UCLA Librarian, Douglas Worsham (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

References

Brown, J., Collins, A., & Duguid, P. (1989). Situated cognition and the culture of learning. Educational Researcher, 18(1), 32–42.

CAST (2018). Universal Design for Learning Guidelines version 2.2. Retrieved from http://udlguidelines.cast.org

Dempsey, J. V., & Litchfield, B. C. (2001). Surfing below the surface of the Web: HyperInquiry. In B. H. Kahn (Ed.), Web-Based Training (pp. 229-234).  Englewood Cliffs, NY: Educational Technology Publications.

Dweck, C. (2009). Developing Growth Mindsets: How Praise Can Harm, and How To Use it Well. [Presentation]. Paper presented at the Scottish Learning Festival, Glasgow. Retrieved from http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/video/c/video_tcm4565678.asp

Garrison, D. R., Anderson, T., & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education 2(2-3), 87-105.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Quality Matters™ Higher Education Rubric, sixth edition. (2018). Maryland Online, Inc. Retrieved from https://www.qualitymatters.org/sites/default/files/PDFs/StandardsfromtheQMHigherEducationRubric.pdf


Sandra Annette Rogers, Ph.D.

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