Joy and knowledge

#LTTO- Module 3- Planning Online Learning

Have a clear vision and aims for the learning of your students so that you don’t all sink into the sand of technology.

This is module three of a Learning To Teach Online MOOC with Coursera, (all content featured has been curated by the University of South Wales for Coursera) you can read about module 1 here and about module 2 here.

Module Learning Outcomes

By engaging with the content, and completing the activities and related discussion in this module, you should be able to:

  1. Describe the principles underpinning the design of online and blended course.
  2. Analyse different online course design options considering the principles of curriculum alignment and the needs of your students

Overview video

You need to the same level of planning for online learning as you do in the classroom. Technology is not the driver but merely a vehicle to achieving your learning outcomes and objectives using technology.

Setting a Learning Goal


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For this module (chosen from a list):

Validate my understanding of the topic through relevant discussion with peers and instructors.

For the whole MOOC (chosen from a list):

I want to gain knowledge about blended/online learning and use this to re-design my course.

Key Concepts Videos


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Key Concepts (Video 1)

The basic principles of planning face-to-face apply to online learning too.

However- it’s important to choose when you use technology- it should be an integrated component that enhances the learning experiences of your students not the driver.

It’s important for you to understand technologies that will be most appropriate for your students. Don’t follow they hype. If it doesn’t serve a useful purpose then don’t use it! Focus on your learning outcomes for your course- what your learners will be able to do at the end of your course.

If the content and assessments aren’t aligned then student learning isn’t facilitated effectively and chaos ensues!

  • Are my learning outcomes measurable?
  • Do the activities facilitate achieving the learning outcomes?
  • Do the assessments measure the achievement of learning outcomes?

You can’t always assume that your learners are digital natives who can use all technologies for their learning as long since been re-thought.

  • Have I provided adequate training?
  • Do I really know how to use it so that I can model best practice and answer their questions?
  • Do all my students have equitable access to these technologies?
  • Have I clearly stated why and how these technologies will be used?

Don’t double-up your face-to-face and online component so that a course ultimately gets taught twice!

  • What is not working in my current class that technology might help with?
  • How many technologies am I asking my learners to use?
  • Which technology is best suited to the activity I’m asking my learners to participate in?
  • What will I remove from my face-to-face classes so that workload isn’t increased for my students and for me?

Online learning that is well managed and well planned for learners reduces their frustration.

Planning Online Learning (Video 2)

Begin with the sharp focus on the fundamentals of curriculum design. What is it you want students to be taking away? Learning? Experiencing?

It’s important to be aware of the importance of communicating the possible benefits to learners.

Start slowly- one course- analyse and evaluate it- build two more- learn from those. Ensure that your content isn’t just shoehorned into an online space- you need to develop content specifically for this space/environment.

Ensure that students don’t miss out on quality learning experiences.

The way learners behave in each context are entirely different.

Focus on learners’ cognitive abilities and exploration of ideas and techniques. You will then see how the technology will allow you to do things you couldn’t without it.

The assessment is often left out of the alignment process when creating online learning- the outcomes and content are often well connected but then the assessments currently sit very separate to this.

You can read about how constructive alignment is important here.

Information engagement is often overlooked because students SEEM to be confident at it. Technology has actually overshadowed what information is and how they can effectively interact with it.

Build in sufficient scaffolding so that they have a sophisticated awareness of the online world.

Get assistance from others that can help with that- instructional designers in particular. exploring examples on the web, speaking to people who are doing it already. Gather lots of different perspectives on what people are doing.

Flipped Classroom (Video 3)

Making the most of face-to-face time with learners is vital- make them participants in their learning. Flipped learning gives this approach a structure and make it more formal.

It can be applied to a wide variety of contexts.

Can you benefit from a session where you’re interacting with students? Then explore flipped classroom.

Voting in the lecture theatre can help learners to engage in something that is generally a passive learning environment. Coloured cards can be used. Tell them to convince one another if you find someone with a different colour card to you. Come up with the activities that illicit this kind of reaction from them.

What are the objectives for the session?- Online it’s set up as ‘To do’ and ‘to know’.

Activities to do before the lecture and then during sections create consistency across the course.

There is always additional information if they haven’t understood lesson content- but this is interactive- it has questions and videos as well as text and diagrams.

This learning outside the classroom helps to identify misconceptions.

  • Start with the objectives to be achieved at the end of the class.
  • What activities would be best suited?
  • Outline the activities that will happen before the class to enable the outcomes to be achieved by the end of the face-to-face lesson?

The flipped classroom is a transition process tat moves the learner to the centre- an actively engaged individual. We need to move to a more participative experience. There is a bit of reluctance from the students in that they want to be left alone but the overall experience is more efficient and rewarding for them and we should all embrace it.

Teaching large online classes (Video 4)

An engineering lecturer explains his blended learning course- 700 students a year in 2 cohorts.

Improving the pre-lab exercises using computers and transfer it online was the target.

Introducing students to the online environment is important- you need to be more detailed online- so they don’t come back and ask you unnecessary questions.

An orientation checks that they have their browser settings correct and it allows them to explore the structure of the site. Answer discussion boards regularly- perhaps use it instead of email but make it clear how frequently you’ll be answering their questions.

The driver was to get tutorials online initially- and then they added more.

Tutorials contain learning objects, drag and drops, and sample questions allow them to go through the content at their own pace. The learners with English as a second language say that this is especially useful.

Group project- each group has a discussion board and they’re really active. The learners also peer review one another’s work- they’re told the ‘why’ behind it- in the workplace, they’ll have to review one another’s work and they’ll need to work closely.

Attendance is flexible- learners who live a long way away and also work part-time can still access learning.

Lecture notes/video and voice recording of lectures as well. Lab sheets are shared and PDF versions of the assessable tutorials can be downloaded too.

A dedicated developer assisted staff in creating and maintaining these online environments and their content.

Success rates have increased on this course since online learning began. Learning has become much more personal.

Notes from the related PDF

Ensure an online course contains the following:

Administrative matters: Documents such as class outlines, important dates, contact information, health and safety policies, student class lists, class evaluations, student expectations, frequently asked questions, schedules, programs, etc.

Resources: Lectures, Open Educational Resources (OER), study notes, interactive activities, reading lists, web links, etc.

Procedural documents: Project briefs, assessment criteria, ‘how to’ instructions or demonstrations, etc.

Then decide on learning activities that could be enhanced by being conducted within an online environment: assignments/feedback/collaboration/news items/external involvement.

Don’t expect technology to solve the problems of your classroom. 



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Self-Awareness Activity

I rated myself as ‘relatively confident’ as I have always had some form of online learning for my students but I believe I need to learn a lot more about how to make it as effective as possible.

I selected that all of these things were important considerations to make when planning online learning:

Consider your own experience and knowledge of teaching. If you were to consider developing your own online learning initiative, what type of factors do you think you may need to consider from a planning perspective? (tick all that apply)
  • Understanding the importance of taking a teaching approach based on learning outcomes
  • Evaluating which aspects of a class can benefit from being done online
  • Constructive alignment of online activities, resources or assessment with learning outcomes
  • Choosing technology that is relevant and suitable for the purpose
  • Helping students build knowledge and skills to use technology in the most appropriate and effective way

I selected the following reasons (from a list) for my motivation to use technology with my students:

  • To create teaching efficiencies
  • To increase student engagement in the subject area
  • To encourage more student collaboration
  • To build students’ skills to effectively use technology
  • To improve student learning by creating opportunity for greater interaction
  • To increase the potential for personalised learning for students

I then answered a question about how I might help students to develop appropriate knowledge and skills to effectively use technology for the study and work practices. I chose the following (from a list):

  • Provide guidance and instruction about how to use the chosen online technology in the context of achieving the learning outcomes of the class
  • Embed activities into my curriculum that require students to find, evaluate and share information using a range of online technologies and tools

This was my recommended list of reading:

Activity 2- Knowledge

Some scenarios were described, which highlighted the importance of selecting technology for a purpose, rather than just because it will engage learners- this is a mistake.

When I was given the scenario of creating a blended version of an existing face-to-face course (within my field but one I have not taught before), I stated that would do the following (selected from a list):

  • Examine the course learning outcomes, activities and assessment and think about what type of learning needs to occur
  • Look at existing inefficiencies in the face-to-face class that might be improved using online technologies
  • Think about your students in terms of age, their prior knowledge of technology and access to technology
  • Consult your institution’s technical support team to determine what technology is available and what support can be offered
  • Speak to colleagues who have taught such courses before to seek their advice
  • Search for examples of successful blended learning strategies

In deciding which elements of any face-to-face class might be better suited to online learning, I selected the following questions from a list:

  • Does face-to-face offer a richer and more meaningful learning experience than online for the particular activity?
  • Does online delivery offer additional opportunities for learning that are not possible in the classroom?
  • Is the technical learning curve worth the outcome for my students?
  • How can I balance the workload between face-to-face and online activity?
  • Does online delivery still ensure there is alignment between learning outcomes, content, activities and assessments?

I am familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy but we were introduced to verbs that can be used in writing learning outcomes and this was a useful resource on Bloom’s Taxonomy that I have not come across before.

We were given a scenario of two teachers exploring the development of students’ analytical skills and using technology tools to achieve this. One teacher chose Twitter whilst the other chose blogs. In this case, blogging is the better choice as it allows the student the characters to be able to analyse- more than 140!

I was asked if I could share a resource with the community and this is the one I chose:

Developing an Evaluation Plan– it consists of 5 steps that can be followed in identifying the best technology tool to make use of.

Activity 3- Strategy

Q. Now that you have had time to consider some of the issues around planning an online activity or course, how might this affect the way you approach the development of your own ideas?

A. I think I have been guilty in the past of using technology because I felt it would engage my learners and/or it made my life easier. Although these are considerations; they shouldn’t be the first ones I make. I need to be consistent in ensuring that the technology I choose and assessments I set always relate to the learning outcomes I want to achieve and the context of my learners. The evaluation plan I have linked to will help with this. 

Q. Given the scope of your own teaching or your own personal goals you may wish to have in this course, what particular aspects of planning would be most useful to you?

A. Frameworks or planning documents are always helpful- these could be used with staff I work with as well as by me and then we can share our experiences with the new approaches to the use of technology in the classroom.

Q. From a planning perspective, can you please share some successful examples from your experience of teaching in a particular sector [e.g. K-12, ESL, Higher education or other] in terms of how you achieved your goals? If you do not have any examples of your own, you may share examples of others that you observed and found successful.

A. Asking learners to submit coursework with the use of Google was a huge triumph. I planned in regular peer, tutor and self assessment opportunities (as well as time to get support with the technology in class). I knew that I needed the learners to receive the right amount of support, challenge and feedback as well as expose themselves to learning from one another and technology could achieve this. The schedule of assessment points on this journey was carefully considered and I believe that lead to its success. Seeing how an Engineering colleague has used Padlet for target setting in the workshop has been of particular interest. The reason he used technology was that he was seeking to solve a problem he was experiencing in his workshop- the sharing and review of targets that could also serve to demonstrate progress over time- and technology held his answer.

Q. From a planning perspective, can you recall any unsuccessful examples and articulate any previously unidentified or potential issues that may prevent you from achieving your goal?

A. Last year, I decided I wanted my learners to blog- without really tying it to the course and assessment objectives. This year, I have ensured that I’ve planned it in to fit with these things- i must just remember these reasons in my interactions with and explanations to learners about the use of the blogs. The potential issues will be if anyone has poor access to technology at home so I must liaise with the library and others early so that a plan can be put in place for that learner to work effectively inside the College during their frees/online study time.

Q. How could you plan to overcome the issues that may prevent you to plan successfully?

A. I need to ensure, as I plan my scheme of learning- that my overall course outcomes are central to all activities and assessments that I plan- tying in out of class learning to this. If I don’t spend some time considering what went wrong with our learning this year, then I won’t be able to plan effectively next year and I may fall into the same traps of selecting technology/creating an activity without thinking it through thoroughly. Something visual by my desk/in my planner may serve as a helpful prompt for this.

My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.
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