Monday 2 March 2009

Pedagogy of e-learning – a tutor’s perspective.

The advantages and disadvantages of on-line learning are commonly understood – examples include “any time, anywhere” learning and a lack of secondary channels of feedback (e.g. non verbal communication) respectively.  Thus it follows that we need to modify our pedagogy of teaching and learning to better fit the new tools and techniques that ICT affords us.

Edge Hill’s own SOLSTICE project runs many sessions focussing on different aspects of on-line pedagogy; two of the most important areas perhaps being “content” and asynchronous discussion:

Content: We cannot simply upload the PowerPoint we used in class – it lacks your verbal contributions, and any enrichment from the rest of the group.  We must create content which creates a similar learning experience as if the session were delivered traditionally.  One downside of this approach is that it can result in large amounts of text over many pages.  However, we can break up monolithic text with attractive multimedia content such as images, video and audio.  Also you can embed student contributions from previous courses (perhaps even including anticipated student contributions).

Discussion: On-line asynchronous discussions are a great tool for enabling students to discuss and reflect on topics being covered by the course.  However, we need to be cautious in how we set these up and must formulate our initial “invitation” carefully to encourage rich contributions which maximise the learning process for all those involved.  Some of the best discussions have been instigated with a contentious proposal designed to encourage those less likely to contribute due to concerns such as a lack of confidence with the technology or the permanence of their contributions.



Peter Beaumont said...

Hi David. That's an interesting starting point for talking about pedagogy and eLearning and it got me thinking.

For the sake of developing how we approach staff further - I've got a few questions/points.

In the 'Content' section you talk about creating a similar learing experience as if the session was delivered traditionally. I guess that in the next step following on from that, we'd be looking at the technologies being used, to see where the technology could enhance the learning experience in a different way to that which can be done face to face. Perhaps it removes limitations of the face-to-face method that affected how that was designed. Not sure what you think of that, and where in the online course design process that comes.

I agree that breaking up text is important. Even with today's higher resolution screens people still read less online, perhaps because scanning pages is just the way that people have become used to using the internet. I think that we need to emphasise to academic staff that any resources they use need to be more than just attractive. Research suggests that just adding decorations to educational content can reduce the amount of learning that takes place, in the sense at least that students are taking less of the important information in due to the extra noise. Also my experience shows some staff become a bit obsessed with decoration over content - we need to be encouraging them to combine the two.

David Callaghan said...

Ah ... smacks of "Constructive Alignment" (Biggs et al...). Agreed on all counts - my original posting suffers from a shortage of space - due to short attention spans - due to information overload? Is there a need / desire to create a framework of e-learning tools and techniques to enable hard pressed academic staff to know where they are on an e-learning scale, and, more importantly, how to move on? Perhaps a prescriptive skills based course covering how to teach online might be something we here at Edge Hill could start thinking about? .. oh dear, that's probably been done already and I'm really talking out of turn here…