Building teacher presence in online environments

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What makes good teaching? Let’s take a moment and try to remember the teachers that had a real impact on our development. What made the learning experience they facilitated so special?

Good teaching is more than a good lesson plan and a set of fancy teaching tools. Good teaching is about effective and inspiring learning. …


Training students to navigate the digital information landscape

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We often assume our students are proficient in evaluating and managing online information. And more often than not, we are wrong. That is why we need to put online media literacy and knowledge management skills at the heart of the learning process. All too often these topics are taken for granted and seldom discussed. As we put a lot of effort into designing and teaching our courses, we expect students to already have these skills or to simply catch them “on the go”. Now with most of the teaching and learning happening online, this topic is more important than ever.

Knowledge management: what and why?

What I refer to as “knowledge management” in this context goes beyond “information management”. …


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Teaching with technology has been brought into the spotlight by the Covid-19 pandemic. But alongside the challenges of having to navigate a territory that was new for many, the shift to teaching online has prompted us to rethink the way we teach and to put more effort into designing a worthwhile learning experience for our students. Let’s take a moment to think about technology as an enabler, rather than an obstacle:

  • Technology connects: it enables inter-university projects, it helps build bridges between academia and the labour market, it provides a dynamic and innovative learning space where students can integrate different perspectives and connect theory with their own experience. …

Using storyboarding to design engaging online learning

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What story do we want to tell our students? How often have you asked yourself this question in the past months? Right now it’s all too easy to be overwhelmed by all the tools available and even helpful pedagogical advice can fall on deaf ears if we dont take the time to reconnect with our teaching at a deeper level.

Are you tempted by the idea of breaking away from Zoom and designing asynchronous learning activities for your courses next semester? Now it’s the time to get to the drawing board. It’s all about story, structure, sequence and schedule. Add to that clarity and consistency, and you might be onto a winner. …


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2020 has been a roller coaster. Plans cancelled, routines turned upside-down, our ability to adapt put to the test over and over again. We are spending our days in an endless series of zoom sessions, eyes glued to the screen for (too) many hours a day. It’s easy to see why many of us would be tempted to see reflection as a luxury right now. After all, it requires time and focus. Two things we are painfully lacking currently.

But reflection, I would argue, is exactly what we need the most right now. For teachers, the sudden switch to teaching online has prompted a reboot in terms of teaching methods and course design. When trying something new, the best way to evaluate the outcome before moving forward is to reflect: think about what you enjoyed, what surprised you, what enraged you, what went better or worse than expected. Equally important, when facing information overload, carried away by hectic schedules, reflection can provide a means to figure out what is important and prioritise accordingly. All in all, I see reflection as a valuable self-care instrument, useful both in terms of professional development and personal well-being. …


A crowdsourced collection of ideas

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This reflection I posted last week on Twitter seems to have resonated with many of you. I was so happy to see so many replies with great suggestions, resources and comments, from various disciplines and corners of the world. I did not want these ideas to be lost on Twitter so I thought of collecting them here (the links to the actual tweets are under the Twitter IDs). Hopefully they will inspire us to think of online learning from a broader perspective.

Jennifer M. Miller


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Time is a crucial element in planning teaching and learning. So why are we so bad at estimating it? This blog post started with a Twitter thread and the thoughtful discussion around it conviced me there is probably more to this topic than can be expressed on Twitter. I am not claiming to provide a silver bullet here, but I think it’s useful to point out a few important aspects to bear in mind, especially when designing for the online environment.

Teaching and learning have a different temporal dimension online. As the time units that guide our face-to-face course planning (e.g. two-hour lecture, one-hour seminar) have become irrelevant, we are struggling to estimate how long certain tasks will take in the online environment, both for us and for our students. Because we operate in a new learning space, we run two risks: (1) to spend too little time both for planning and teaching, leaving students with little guidance and support and (2) to spend too much time, over-design the course, thus overwhelming students with a myriad of resources (the pedagogical version of digital hoarding) and unrealistic tasks. …


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The past six months have challenged many existing assumptions and routines regarding how we teach, how students learn, the role of educators and the learning spaces we are using. It is too early to tell if this disruption will have a long-lasting impact and will result in transformation at institutional level. But a lot of effort has been put into making sure the move to online teaching goes as smoothly as possible, first in the emergency phase and then in a more consistent manner throughout the summer, in preparation for a new academic year full of uncertainties.

Now is a good moment to reflect on faculty development as well as support structures in times of pandemic and beyond. Given the lack of a coherent and comprehensive pedagogical education approach in Higher Education, it’s important to take stock of and evaluate the efforts made in the past months and try to build on the resources and new routines that have been developed. …


Ideas for designing effective engagement in online spaces

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Workshops are meant to be an active, social, hands-on aproach to learning. It’s all about exchanging ideas, building something together or trying out new tools and methods. As our lives moved online, so did workshops. But have we found effective ways to run online workshops?

Because the online workshop is a new experience for many of us, both as organisers and as participants, we should resist the temptation to transpose face-to-face workshops one to one to the virtual space. Instead, let’s take time to rethink the objectives, timeframe and activities, as well as the communication channels we use. …


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Take a moment to think about this: where do you learn best? How does your ideal learning space look like? Is it tidy or messy? Loud or quiet? Social or solitary? What does learning involve for you? Reading? Writing? Creating? Communicating? All of the above?

What do you value most in a learning space?

This is the question we should ask ourself before starting to design learning spaces for our students. Note that for this blog post I choose to talk about designing learning spaces and not about teaching courses. This is because I want to focus on the space where learning takes place. This can be formal or informal, or both. It can have individual and collective components. …

About

Alexandra Mihai

Learning designer @UCLDigiEd; PhD in education; passionate about creating new learning spaces in Higher Education. http://educationalist.substack.com

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