5 Online Teaching Tips: Simple design, asynchronous communication, low-tech methods

Teaching Tip 1: Sequencing & scaffolding of learning content (Lessons eTool)

Lecturers should aim to make use of the Lessons eTool, and even a basic structure can be effective for the student. The Lessons eTools can be used to organize learning activities, course resources and digital media on a single page. The Lessons eTool should be structured using a scaffolded approach, whereby the instructor organises learning content into manageable units of work with clear guidelines and instructions for the student. Hence, each section or unit should aim to provide students with:

  • Introduction to the topic

  • Learning outcomes

  • Checklist of learning activities

  • Required readings or learning material (Journal articles, textbook chapters, YouTube videos, Narrated PowerPoint)

  • Additional supplementary material [optional]

  • Assessment activities linked to specific learning outcomes

These interactive lesson pages will allow students to see clear links between learning activities, assessment and outcomes; and provide students with opportunities for self-directed learning.

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 Figure 1. Lesson Page design

See video on how to get started with basic lesson page creation: https://youtu.be/7V4qNTTBj2Q  

Teaching Tip 2: Be visible online

As an online facilitator, it becomes even more important to maintain regular contact with students, as face-to-face classes and consultations are simply not possible.

  • One way in which you can easily maintain contact with your students is through iKamva’s Announcements eTool. This tool will allow you to send Announcements directly to the students enrolled for your particular module, including relevant attachments such as readings, presentations, and links to websites, etc.

  • Online facilitators are encouraged to send out weekly announcements at the beginning of each week, introducing students to topics, activities, and assessments that can be expected. This ensures that students remain motivated and that they are aware of what is expected of them.

  • Aim to provide as much instruction and feedback as possible, and let your students know the best methods and times in which to contact you.

  • Tutors are also able to send Announcements to their specific groups [a tutorial group should have been created prior to sharing information]. See instructional material attached on how to send announcements and set up groups.

**Students will receive an email to their student Gmail account, to which they will be able to reply (this will bounce back to your staff email, where you may engage with the student personally if needed).

**See video on how to get started with sending announcements:

https://youtu.be/Ev24qdTReig

Teaching Tip 3: Student Interaction & Knowledge Building

Without the benefit of face-to-face interaction, Discussion Forums can serve as a bridge between the gaps.

  • Discussion Forums will give students the opportunity to interact with the lecturer; and with their peers.

  • Discussion Forums can be used as a Q&A space, whereby students can pose questions related to concepts or topics that they are uncertain of, and these questions can be answered by the facilitator, a tutor, or even another student in the class.

  • Discussion Forums can be a great way for students to express their opinions (student voices), and actively participate in the process of knowledge-building and sharing.

  • Group discussions: The facilitator can create multiple forums and limit it to a specific pre-defined group, meaning that only students in the group are able to interact in the forum. This can be used for collaborative work such as group assignments; or for Tutors to interact with their Tutorial Groups.

  • Discussion Forum can be used for assessment purposes: Students are required to post their responses to a topic or question. Students can then critique other student’s posts, and give their own opinion if they agree or disagree. In some circumstances, it is better to grade students on their time and effort; rather than whether or not the response is correct. This will help to promote interaction and students will not feel apprehensive about sharing their responses.

**See links below on how to create effective & engaging Discussion Forums:

https://elearningindustry.com/lms-forums-used-educators-ways

https://elearningindustry.com/improve-an-online-discussion-forum-3-design-tips

https://elearningindustry.com/how-create-engaging-online-discussion-forums

Teaching Tip 4: Formative & Summative Assessments linked to each learning unit (Test Quizzes, Assignments eTools)

The iKamva platform can be utilised for both formative and summative assessments by making use of the Assignments or Tests & Quizzes eTools. These assessments can be linked in a Lessons page, allowing students to test their knowledge in each learning unit in a meaningful sequence (Teaching Tip 1). Regular formative assessment (zero or low stakes) can help the student identify gaps in their knowledge, allowing them to revise content more meaningfully. Pre-quizzes at the start of each learning unit can also give students an indication of important areas to focus on. Furthermore, this gives the facilitator insight into the students’ prior knowledge which can be used to adjust the pace of the course.

Question pools can be set up to differentiate between concepts, themes and sections; and a set number of questions can be randomly drawn from the pool. This will ensure that each student’s assessment varies from one to the other. This form of assessment has been used by lecturers at UWC across disciplines as both formative and summative assessment. It is advisable to set up all question pools in advance, allowing you to easily create the assessment when necessary and draw a set number of questions from the pool. Question pools are saved to your iKamva profile, meaning you will be able to use it in any module, and you will be able to re-use your question pools each year.

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Figure 3. Multiple Choice Type Questions with Rationale

Teaching Tip 5: Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Interaction (Discussion Forums, Chat Room, Meetings/BigBlueButton)

There are two kinds of online interaction that can take place, both with their own benefits and limitations. Try to include both types of interaction in your online environment in order to accommodate a wider range of students.

Synchronous interaction & learning takes place in real-time, meaning that students are able to receive immediate responses and/or feedback. Examples of synchronous learning include the use of video conferencing tools such as BigBlueButton or Google Hangouts/Meetings. This is essentially a virtual classroom environment, but it can incur high data costs; and not always the most viable option for students.

Asynchronous interaction does not have to take place in real-time. This has benefits for the student such as giving them time to formulate their responses without interruption. It is generally less data-intensive, and the student can interact at their own pace or when they have the means to do so. Discussion Forums are an example of asynchronous interaction and can be utilised on the iKamva platform.

NB: These 5 Teaching Tips were sent out to  the campus community in April 2020

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