Principle 3 - Good Practice Encourages Active Learning
Rather than passively reading text or listening to a lecture, learning is enhanced when the student is actively involved in the process. Professor Allie Johansen had used Think-Pair-Share activities in her face-to-face lectures to bring active learning to her students, and she is now moving her class online. She liked how these active learning techniques got students involved in analyzing and thinking deeper about issues, as opposed to simply regurgitating facts. So during the first week, Allie had her class set up Skype buddies for web conferencing. Each week, she would pose an issue and require the students to discuss this in with their buddy before commenting in the discussion board. She found that the online discussions quickly became deeper and more nuanced, precisely because her students had reflected on the issue together before posting individually in the online forums.
Her students liked the ability to talk among themselves, so she expanded the concept to weekly group discussions that were coordinated and recorded by her students. The archived group discussions were posted as podcasts so that students and colleagues outside the group could also tap in to what those in the group were thinking. Allie joined one group each week for these discussions, and she was able to invite colleagues to also participate.
Interestingly, Allie found that her students began expanding their buddy network to draw in other students whose knowledge they respected. Through these online asynchronous and synchronous discussions, Allie added a richness to her class that excited her students and motivated them to dig even deeper in their personal learning.
Chickering and Gamson stated that learning:
“is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just sitting in classes listening to teachers, memorizing pre-packaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, and apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves” (p. 1).
The same is true of online learning – students do not learn much individually from reading a text or viewing a powerpoint and then taking a test.
The vast resources of the web offer opportunities for new types of assignments, where students are guided in researching topics and sharing the resources they find. Blogging and wikis offer excellent mechanisms to facilitate this active learning. Rather than passive recipients of knowledge, students can be encouraged to be active developers of knowledge. The use of co-constructed knowledge and meaning – through interaction, collaboration, and reflection – can lead to deeper learning outcomes (Palloff and Pratt, 2007; Garrison, Anderson and Archer, 2000).
Graham et al (2003) suggested having students make presentations online:
“Students learn valuable skills from presenting their projects and are often motivated to perform at a higher level. Students also learn a great deal from seeing and discussing their peers' work.
While formal synchronous presentations may not be practical online, instructors can still provide opportunities for projects to be shared and discussed asynchronously. Of the online courses we evaluated, only one required students to present their work to the class. In this course, students presented case study solutions via the class Web site. The other students critiqued the solution and made further comments about the case. After all students had responded, the case presenter updated and reposted his or her solution, including new insights or conclusions gained from classmates. Only at the end of all presentations did the instructor provide an overall reaction to the cases and specifically comment about issues the class identified or failed to identify. In this way, students learned from one another as well as from the instructor.”
Just a decade ago, it took sophisticated software and expertise to place a video online. Now, tools such as iMovie and TechSmith’s Jing give both students and faculty affordable and easy means to create online presentations themselves. The New Media Consortium labeled this the “Grassroots Video” movement (NMC, 2009):
“Virtually anyone can capture, edit, and share short video clips, using inexpensive equipment (such as a cell phone) and free or nearly free software. Video sharing sites continue to grow at some of the most prodigious rates on the internet; it is very common now to find news clips, tutorials, and informative videos listed alongside the music videos and the raft of personal content that dominated these sites when they first appeared. What used to be difficult and expensive, and often required special servers and content distribution networks, now has become something anyone can do easily for almost nothing. Hosting services handle encoding, infrastructure, searching, and more, leaving only the content for the producer to worry about. Custom branding has allowed institutions to even have their own special presence within these networks, and will fuel rapid growth among learning-focused organizations who want their content to be where the viewers are.”
In the past, the students came to the faculty for knowledge. In today’s collaborative web, knowledge can be co-created and shared by the students. Placing the students as active drivers of their own learning potentially increases deeper learning and enhanced participation.