Online Learning – lessons for the future (5)

In the last instalment, we discussed aspects of the quality of teaching and learning, and how the same teaching and learning issues needed to be addressed online.  In this instalment, we will discuss our attempts to manage asynchronous online learning, and the reactions of other teachers to what was going on.

You will remember from our first instalment that one of the first things that happened was that some students turned up at the second lesson having already done it – or at least they thought they had. To get a handle on what is going on here, distinguish between three learning contexts; classroom learning, online learning and remote learning.  The innovation we had been developing was online learning – ie using networked devices in the classroom as a learning environment alongside the traditional practices of the classroom.  The students who had done more lessons had logged on at home where they were doing remote learning.  And you will remember that in response to the fact that many students had no remote access at home, and in the interests of equity, we opened up the computer rooms after school and at lunchtimes, providing remote learning opportunities in school.  This did indeed reduce differential rates of progress, but it did nothing to help the poor teachers manage the continuous requests for support, via email, on the corridors and so on, which resulted by opening up the learning beyond the face to face of the traditional classroom.

In one of the schools we had implemented chat rooms in Moodle, to try and support interaction in the online settings.  This made things even worse and at the time we shut them down. 

In the event, we scheduled windows in time for the students so that if they emailed then, they would get a response, and set contact times outside of lessons.  These dedicated teachers had windows at the weekend too.  Once this was done, it was extended to all teachers of ICT, as it was then.

Many of the students really liked online learning, and did better in that environment.  This is a really important outcome, and is by itself almost enough to justify the effort of setup and delivery.  (Some students did worse of course).  At the time we did not pursue why this was, but the students certainly pursued the teachers of other subjects, asking them why they were not doing it.  In one school, we were asked by one subject department to help them and with the blessing of management this was set up, also in Moodle.  Two issues surfaced at once – not all the teachers in that department were happy with what seemed to them to be a substantial additional workload (ask yourself why the ICT teachers did not think that), and even when running, there were simply not enough computers in the school and at home to support access requirements.

In the next and last instalment, we will consider briefly why this initiative remained far ahead of its time, and make some general points.

If you are already good at online learning, perhaps your school is ready to be recognised for its achievements. Please check out the Education Technology Alliance Schools Award at https://theeta.co/awards/take-the-award    

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