15 July 2011

The Focus of an Online Course Support Site

Recently, I realised that many university instructors are asked to design online support for their classroom courses and want to go beyond using the online system as a repository for what were previously print materials handed out in class. Of course, the first reaction to this notion might be to say, "Oh, no! I also want to include my lectures, presentations, and other learning materials on the site for students to access. That way, students who must miss class will not fall behind others." Still, the notion that the online system merely helps the class 'go paperless' seems far short of what it was designed to do, at least as far as the Moodle system goes.

For those whose commitment in education is to provide information for students to process individually, a materials repository might be all that is needed. However, the theoretical approach behind Moodle tools will allow courses to provide much more than mere materials for students to process; when instructors begin to ask not what information students need, but rather what activities they need as part of their learning program, Moodle can provide a great deal more.

One activity tool that is essential in many disciplines is the understanding of concepts particular to that discipline. The Moodle glossary tool is an excellent activity to allow students to describe their growing understanding of terms they need to know as they progress in the course. Students can be credited for taking the time to develop the class glossary (or sub-glossaries, where the discipline encourages students to investigate areas that are part of the overall subject area). Students can also comment on each other's work, giving aid or asking questions, as needed.

Another activity that I have recently tried for the first time is the workshop. I introduced the activity in class, telling students that this tool was experimental for me and that we would learn together whether it was a good fit for our learning needs. I had students upload a writing assignment to the workshop. One aspect of the workshop is that it facilitates peer evaluation of work. It was this activity that I particularly wanted to explore. The evaluation rubric was easy to set up, and students appreciated the guidance on what factors to evaluate in each other's work. I set the workshop up in such a way that each student was required to evaluate their own work in the rubric, then they needed to evaluate the work of three other students. The workshop allows for either random or manual assignment of peer assessment. Since this was my first time through, I used the random assignment of work. Students who completed this activity were extremely satisfied with the overall process. Some commented that this was their first experience with peer evaluation and that they appreciated the guidance provided by the assessment instructions and rubric. Others indicated that they found the work uncomfortable, but admitted that seeing and assessing the work of others gave them a great deal more skill in their own writing than the mere writing itself would have provided.

Overall, it would seem to be better to ask what students need to do to learn, than merely what information they need access to. When online support begins to address activities that promote learning, the online context can provide both synchronous and asynchronous support for education and not merely a repository for materials.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Williams Lake

No comments:

Post a Comment