Translate to multiple languages

Subscribe to my Email updates
Enjoy what you've read, make sure you subscribe to my Email Updates

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Digital learning: how to keep your students switched on | The Guardian

Follow on Twitter as @leonardhoux
"Universities will be busy this year adapting to the changes introduced by the government’s higher education reforms." summarizes Leonard Houx, Senior instructional designer, Cass Business School.

Students need to be given a reason to engage with online activities.
Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

But they mustn’t forget that there is more to the future of higher education than the teaching excellence framework ratings exercise: digital learning will also take centre stage.

Digital learning is growing in sophistication. It can be developed for fully online remote learning courses, or added to traditional classroom-based courses as blended learning. But how do you ensure it adds value, and avoid the risk of miscommunication?

As an instructional designer, one of the most common things I hear when meeting with academics is that their students don’t engage with online activities. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most fundamental is that they see no reason to do it. If you want a student to engage in an online activity, you need to ensure they understand the task, and its meaning and relevance.

It might be that an activity will help a student learn about themselves, do better work in their job, or maybe it will give them practise for a final exam. You can communicate this by slipping it into a subheading at the top of your page, such as “do x better”, and explain in the text below.

Keep it simple 
Good design can also make all the difference. For starters, text must be easy to scan. You may pride yourself on your flair for language, but online, you’re playing a different ballgame. Research shows that online, people tend to scan rather than read text. If you want to effectively get your message across, you should:
  • Break up paragraphs.
  • Use bullet points or numbered lists.
  • Bold text for emphasis (but don’t overdo it).
  • Shorten text and avoiding fluff.
  • Signal top-line messages with strong headings, which make the page feel clearer and lighter.
You can add interest with images. But don’t be tempted to add images just for the sake of adding colour to a page. Unless images are a relevant part of the content, people don’t look at them. Moreover, cartoons can distract and trivialise your content, so limit yourself to meaningful images and video.

Avoid content dump 
Since you know your topic, the most natural part of your job is to share your knowledge: to explain and share helpful resources like video lectures, articles and podcasts. But students need to do more than passively receive your online artefacts; they need to be actively engaged.

Action is key to successful online learning. It lets students practise what they’ve learned, and gives them a chance for feedback and a clearer picture of their own knowledge. But beware of going heavy on links to other information. A recent study at the Open University found that resource-heavy online courses have a “significantly lower completion and pass rate than other modules”.

In my own course designs, I try to reduce the passivity of content by ensuring that they are coupled with some activity. Instead of merely embedding a video, I’ll add a short quiz to follow.

Source: The Guardian