Transformation, not duplication

How students engage with learning in an online environment is different to that of a face-to-face environment. Therefore careful consideration is required when planning how content is to be delivered and what is required to ensure the online learning experience is engaging and effective. It is not enough to just duplicate your approach to learning and teaching – you need to transform it. For example, whilst a one hour lecture may work in a face-to-face environment, duplicating that as a one hour narrated presentation for an online environment may not achieve the same learning outcomes.

Consider the following when transforming your learning activities:

Case study examples

As part of an Australian Learning & Teaching Council funded project, the University of New South Wales developed a series of short videos to support academics in the transition to moving from teaching in the face-to-face context, to the online and blended context. Listed below are a range of ‘case studies’ whereby academics share their successes and challenges with transforming their face-to-face teaching to enable successful online learning:

Designing for connection

Connection to peers, connection to staff and connection to content are paramount to successful learning and teaching in any learning environment. Learning is inherently a social activity, where people learn about content through social interaction. Whether the course be delivered face-to-face, or online, creating connections between students and their peers, their tutors and the content needs to be pivotal in course design. Online learning should connect learners with each other and with experts and not just content. The more online leverages social learning practices the more effective it will be. As you design your online or blended course think about how much learner-learner, learner-teacher and learner-content interactions there are and how you achieve this.

Designing for engagement

We all know that student engagement is important for effective learning, but engagement doesn’t just happen: you need to design and plan for it. In designing for engagement you need to understand what motivates your students. Are your students intrinsically motivated by a deep love of learning (often referred to as ‘deep learners’), or are they extrinsically motivated by factors such as needing to get the grades to achieve the degree (referred to as ‘surface learners’), or learn something specific to apply to their current situation or future workplace (referred to as strategic learners)? Use the things that are important to your students to help them achieve the outcomes that are important to the course. This creates a sense of achievement and successful learning for the students, which in turn helps to create further motivation for the next task/phase of learning. This is particularly pertinent in the online learning space, where engagement with learning needs to be deliberately factored in.

Variety vs same

Engaging students in a successful learning experience requires a diversity of teaching strategies that incorporate a variety of learning activities, so that these activities don't become rote or focus too much on a single level of learning. For those of you who are familiar with Bloom's Taxonomy, we don't want most activities to fall into any one category of learning: remembering, understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating, or creating. Yet, we don't want to use different learning activities just for the sake of it either. The challenge is to have enough:

  • ‘Sameness’ in your course that students feel confident and a sense of familiarity with the learning journey, but without learning becoming predictable and eventually boring.
  • 'Variety' in your course that students feel excited and challenged about the upcoming weeks or modules, without feeling overwhelmed by having to adapt to many differing activities or technologies or approaches.
Same learning outcome, different learning activity

When you are juggling both on-campus and off-campus students in the same course, it can be a challenge to provide equity in the types of learning activities each group of student experiences. In some cases the teacher may be tempted to duplicate the activity for both groups however the learning outcomes or engagement in learning will differ. And in an attempt to ensure the learning outcomes are the same for both cohorts, design two different activities, which puts additional strain on teaching resources. Consider how you can strike a balance of ensuring that all groups within the course get the same opportunities to engage with and achieve the learning outcomes, but without having to design, create and deliver twice as much.

Resources, strategies or assistance

Resources - Websites