A recurring theme in public commentary on the pandemic has been the idea that in dire circumstances, the world made a sudden, unexpected and not entirely unwelcome jump into the future.
The increase in online learning and teaching for students, teachers and universities across the globe has been challenging. But it has also sparked experimentation and highlighted how important it is to design online education from its inception. So how do we make sure that the online education we deliver is not just an adaptation from face-to-face delivery but purpose-built for better learning outcomes?
Supporting offshore Asian international students to acculturate to the norms of a Western university is a real challenge. There are often major cultural and structural differences between the social and schooling contexts of these students’ home countries and the overseas universities they are now enrolled in.
Over time and experience, you have developed an extensive multilayered library of knowledge – or schema – related to your area of expertise. It is what makes you an expert in the field and differentiates you from the students before you.
Facilitating an opportunity for those students to begin the journey towards acquiring a similarly developed schema is what drives the best educators, and it drives them because they want the next generation to carry the baton and advance the field further.
When traditional face-to-face lectures were replaced by online delivery at universities all over the world last year, some institutions changed the style of teaching altogether. They replaced lectures with more interactive forms of instruction using Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Blackboard Collaborate.
“Discussion enables students to find expression for their own thought, to have it challenged, to place this new idea in relation to the first, and through the resolution of that potential discrepancy, develop a more elaborated or better articulated expression of their thought. That need for checking and confirming thoughts is fundamental,” explained Diana Laurillard of the UCL Knowledge Lab, perfectly capturing why class discussions are so important to learning.
So how can you make discussions work for you? There are four essential considerations:
Technology-enhanced learning enables us to structure courses in ways that best support diverse student cohorts. We can use a mix of timetabled synchronous and independent asynchronous learning on campus and online.
For activities such as workshops, tutorials, science labs, studio work and group assessment activities, students want or need to be on campus interacting face to face. Some students need to complete work-integrated learning within industry or the community.