Learning Path

Teaching interactively

Teaching interactively

Learning Path: Teaching interactively

Participation is key to maintaining high levels of student attentiveness and motivation in digital and online teaching. Interactive elements such as group work and discussions, or methods involving peer learning and collaboration, can give variety to your classes as well as support and enrich your teaching. This learning pathway details specific ways of restructuring your teaching to make it more interactive that will encourage your students to actively participate. 

1

Communication and Interaction


Topic: Interact effectively with students in online classes    Time: 5 min

Interact with Students in a Video Conference

Interaction in virtual lectures is essential for learner motivation. When a learner is engaged in the learning process over a period of time, they will find it easier to concentrate, which increases the likelihood of their internalising the content in a lasting way. There are various ways of involving students in online teaching and interacting with them. For an introduction to encouraging student interaction, watch the following video.

License: The video "03 Videokonferenz - Studierende einbeziehen" by contactnorth, translated and distributed by LLZ (Zentrum für multimediales Lehren und Lernen), Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=567tYNFxa7o is licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.

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Topic: Interact effectively with students in online classes    Time: 20 min

Strategies on How to Interact with Students via Zoom

Getting students to engage and interact with each other - even in videoconferences - is at the heart of successful online learning. Columbia University hosts a web page on active learning, which outlines strategies to ensure student interaction in Zoom.

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Topic: Stay connected with students    Time: 10 min

Engaging Synchronously and Asynchronously with Students

It can be difficult to maintain a regular and successful exchange with students in online teaching. It is therefore important to learn about strategies that are unthreatening to both teachers and students. In fact, there are various ways to maintain contact with students despite distance. Columbia University has compiled a range of possible tools - synchronous and asynchronous - for communicating with your students. Just follow the link to make use of them.

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2

Online Group Work and Discussions


Topic: Interact effectively with students in online classes    Time: 60 min

Class Discussions Synchron and Asynchron

Discussions are an effective way of letting students participate actively in online learning; however, to achieve a positive outcome, discussion phases must be carefully planned. Columbia University offers extensive advice on integrating discussion into online learning, which can be found by clicking on the link. Here, you'll learn some strategies for planning and incorporating discussion into your online teaching.

License: Text: The text “Online Discussions: Tips for Instructors” by Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo, via https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/alternatives-lecturing/discussions/online-discussions-tips-for-instructors, is licensed under CC-BY-NC 4.0, shortened and edited by SEA-EU.

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Topic: Interact effectively with students in online classes    Time: 10 min

Tips and Strategies for Online Discussions

Discussions are an excellent way of interacting with students and can be synchronous or asynchronous. They can encourage students to participate actively and make content more memorable, but they must be prepared in advance to be successful. Learners should be included and comfortable; you don't want to be the only one speaking. Columbia University provides a framework for preparation, which advises on how to proceed in online discussions and typical mistakes to avoid.

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Topic: Knowing how digital group work functions    Time: 15 min

Implementing Group Work in the (Online) Classroom

Group work can be an effective way to motivate students, encourage active learning, and develop key critical-thinking, communication, and decision-making skills. However, it can be frustrating for students and instructors or feel like a waste of time if not planned and carried out carefully. Use these suggestions to help successfully implement group work in your classroom.

Preparing for group work

  • Think carefully about how students will be arranged in groups. Will it be easy for groups to form and for all students to be comfortable?
  • Insist on professional, civil conduct between and among students to respect people’s differences and create an inclusive environment.
  • Talk to students about their past experiences with group work and allow them to establish some ground rules for successful collaboration.

Designing the group activity

  • Identify the instructional objectives. Determine what you want to achieve through the small group activity, both academically (e.g., knowledge of a topic) and socially (e.g., listening skills). The activity should relate closely to the course objectives and class content and must be designed to help students learn, not simply to occupy their time. Roberson and Franchini (2014) emphasize that for group learning to be effective, students need a clear sense that group work is "serving the stated learning goals and disciplinary thinking goals" of the course (280). When deciding whether or not to use group work for a specific task, consider these questions: What is the objective of the activity? How will that objective be furthered by asking students to work in groups? Is the activity challenging or complex enough that it requires group work? Will the project require true collaboration? Is there any reason why the assignment should not be collaborative?
  • Make the task challenging. Consider giving a relatively easy task early in the term to arouse students’ interest in group work and encourage their progress. In most cases collaborative exercises should be stimulating and challenging. By pooling their resources and dealing with differences of opinion that arise, groups of students can develop a more sophisticated product than they could as individuals. 
  • Assign group tasks that encourage involvement, interdependence, and a fair division of labour. All group members should feel a sense of personal responsibility for the success of their teammates and realize that their individual success depends on the group’s success. Johnson, Johnson, and Smith (2014) refer to this as positive interdependence and argue that this type of cooperative learning tends to result in learners promoting each other's success. Knowing that peers are relying on you is a powerful motivator for group work.
    • Allocate essential resources across the group so that group members are required to share information. Or, to come up with a consensus, randomly select one person to speak for the group, or assign different roles to group members so that they are all involved in the process (e.g., recorder, spokesperson, summarizer, checker, skeptic, organizer, observer, timekeeper, conflict resolver, liaison to other groups).
    • Another strategy for promoting interdependence is specifying common rewards for the group, such as a group mark.
  • Decide on group size. The size you choose will depend on the number of students, the variety of voices needed within a group, and the task assigned. Groups of four-five tend to balance the needs for diversity, productivity, active participation, and cohesion. The less skillful the group members, the smaller the groups should be (Gross Davis, 1993).
  • Decide how you will divide students into groups. Division based on proximity or students’ choice is quickest, especially for large and cramped classes, but this often means that students end up working together with friends or with the same people.
    • To vary group composition and increase diversity within groups, randomly assign students to groups by counting off and grouping them according to number.
    • For some group tasks, the diversity within a group (e.g., gender, ethnicity, level of preparation) is especially important, and you might want to assign students to groups yourself before class. Collect a data card from each student on the first day of class to glean important information about their backgrounds, knowledge, and interests. Alternately, ask students to express a preference (e.g., list three students with whom they would most like to work or two topics they would most like to study), and keep their preferences in mind as you assign groups.
  • Allow sufficient time for group work. Recognize that you won't be able to cover as much material as you could if you lectured for the whole class period. Cut back on the content you want to present in order to give groups time to work. Estimate the amount of time that subgroups need to complete the activity. Also plan for a plenary session in which groups’ results can be presented or general issues and questions can be discussed.
  • Try to predict students’ answers. You won’t be able to expect the unexpected, but by having some idea about what students will come up with, you will be better prepared to answer their questions and tie together the group work during the plenary session.
  • Design collaborative work in multiple forms: pairs, small groups, large groups, online synchronously, online asynchronously, etc. Some students might be better at contributing after they have had time to digest material, while others might be better at thinking on the spot. Other students will defer to others in large groups but actively contribute in pairs. All roles should be valued and included.

Introducing the group activity

  • Share your rationale for using group work. Students must understand the benefits of collaborative learning. Don't assume that students know what the pedagogical purpose is. Explicitly connect these activities to larger class themes and learning outcomes whenever possible. 
  • Have students form groups before you give them instructions. If you try to give instructions first, students may be too preoccupied with deciding on group membership to listen to you. 
  • Facilitate some form of group cohesion. Students work best together if they know or trust each other, at least to some extent. Even for brief group activities, have students introduce themselves to their group members before attending to their task. For longer periods of group work, consider introducing an icebreaker or an activity designed specifically to build a sense of teamwork.
  • Explain the task clearly. This means both telling students exactly what they have to do and describing what the final product of their group work will look like. Explaining the big picture or final goal is important, especially when the group work will take place in steps. Prepare written or visual instructions (e.g., charts, sequential diagrams) for students. Remember to include time estimations for activities. 
  • Set ground rules for group interaction. Especially for extended periods of group work, establish how group members should interact with one another, including principles such as respect, active listening, and methods for decision making. 
  • Let students ask questions. Even if you believe your instructions are crystal clear, students may have legitimate questions about the activity. Give them time to ask questions before they get to work.

Monitoring the group task

  • Monitor the groups but do not hover. As students do their work, circulate among the groups and answer any questions raised. Avoid interfering with group functioning — allow time for students to solve their own problems before getting involved.
  • Expect a lot from your students. Assume that they do know, and can do, a great deal (Brookfield & Preskill, 1999). Express your confidence in them as you circulate between them.
  • Be slow to share what you know. If you come upon a group that is experiencing uncertainty or disagreement, avoid the natural tendency to give the answers or resolve the disagreement. If necessary, clarify your instructions, but let students struggle — within reason — to accomplish the task (Race, 2000).
  • Clarify your role as facilitator. If students criticize you for not contributing enough to their work, consider whether you have communicated clearly enough your role as facilitator.

Ending the group task

  • Provide closure to the group activities. Students tend to want to see how their work in small groups was useful to them and/or contributed to the development of the topic. You can end with a plenary session in which students do group reporting. Effective group reporting “can make the difference between students’ feeling that they are just going through their paces and the sense that they are engaged in a powerful exchange of ideas” (Brookfield & Preskill, 1999, p. 107).
    • Oral reports: Have each group give one idea and rotate through the groups until no new ideas arise. Or have each group give their most surprising or illuminating insights or their most challenging question. You can record ideas raised to validate their value.
    • Written reports: Have each group record their ideas and either present them yourself or have a group member do so. One variation on this is to have groups record their conclusions. Students then read each other’s answers and add their own comments in response.
  • Model how you want students to participate. When responding to students’ answers, model the respect and sensitivity that you want the students to display towards their classmates. Be ready to acknowledge and value opinions different from your own. Be willing to share your own stories, critique your work, and summarize what has been said.
  • Connect the ideas raised to course content and objectives. Recognize that groups might not come up with the ideas you intended them to, so be willing to make your lecture plans flexible. Wherever possible, look for a connection between group conclusions and the course topic. However, be aware that misconceptions or inaccurate responses need to be clarified and corrected either by you or by other students.
  • Don’t provide too much closure. Although the plenary session should wrap up the group work, feel free to leave some questions unanswered for further research or for the next class period. This openness reflects the nature of knowledge.
  • Ask students to reflect on the group work process. They may do so either orally or in writing. This reflection helps them discover what they learned and how they functioned in the group. It also gives you a sense of their response to group work.
REFERENCES + LICENSES:
Brookfield, S.D., & Preskill, S. (1999). Discussion as a Way of Teaching: Tools and Techniques for Democratic Classrooms. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Gross Davis, B. (1993). Tools for Teaching. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.
Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., & Smith, K. A. (2014). Cooperative learning: Improving university instruction by basing practice on validated theory. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 25(3&4), 85-118.
Race, P. (2000). 500 Tips on Group Learning. London: Kogan Page.
Roberson, B., & Franchini, B. (2014). Effective task design for the TBL classroom. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, 25(3&4), 275-302.

The text “Implementing Group Work in the Classroom” by Centre for Teaching Excellence, University of Waterloo via https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-teaching-excellence/teaching-resources/teaching-tips/alternatives-lecturing/group-work/implementing-group-work-classroom, is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0, rephrased and shortened by SEA-EU.

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Topic: Knowing how digital group work functions    Time: 15 min

Group Work in Digital Learning Settings

Why should you use group work in digital learning settings? What factors should you consider and what types of groupwork are possible? The linked page provides advice on designing, managing, and assessing group activities in digital- and blended learning environments. It covers both synchronous and asynchronous group work.

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3

Online-Boards and Visualization


Topic: Learn about the uses of digital whiteboards    Time: 10 min

How to Use an Online Whiteboard

Whiteboards can reinforce your face-to-face teaching with images and thus make the content more memorable. If you can make the content easier to understand by using a tool to visualise it, why not use them in online teaching too? Follow the link below for an introduction to working with Creately - a digital whiteboard that makes it easy to work together with students in an online lecture.

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Topic: Learn about the uses of digital whiteboards    Time: 10 min

10 Online Whiteboard Options for Online Learning

There are various ways to use a digital whiteboard in online teaching. The link below will show you a variety of whiteboard tools, each of which is accompanied by a short description. They can be used both synchronously as part of a video conference and asynchronously, for example in a video.

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Topic: Learning new ways of visualising content    Time: 15 min

Sketchnotes in Education

Sketch notes - notes which use images and drawings - are a form of visual thinking. Learners can use them for note taking and teachers for communicating content, meaning they can be a great aid in teaching and learning. Click on the link for an overview on sketch notes and why they can be useful in learning. Here, you'll also find out more about how sketch notes can provide the basis for lectures and seminars.

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4

Collaboration and Peer-Learning


Topic: Collaborating with students    Time: 35 min

Collaboration Basics

You can find a range of articles on collaborative online learning and teaching in the E-Learning Industry blog (see link). It offers reasons for collaborative activity in online learning and outlines its benefits and challenges. It also features a range of strategies for designing collaborative activities and encouraging student participation in online learning, as well as recommendations for collaborative tools and practical suggestions for your next learning activity and ways of appraising and assessing group work.

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Topic: Discovering what peer-learning is and what event formats exist    Time: 5 min

Introduction to Peer-to-Peer Learning

Peer-to-peer learning is a widely used approach that is particularly useful for small-group factual discussions. Here, students learn with and from each other. Expert groups in which learners pass information to each other are similar. The accompanying short video from NEOMA Business School illustrates how this method works.

License: not freely licensed

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5

Blended and Flipped Learning


Topic: Prepare a blended learning session    Time: 15 min

Blended Learning Design Approaches

The blended learning environment has a number of critical elements. For example, a design that leads to open communication, trust, and critical reflection and discussion. But how do you create a blended learning course or module with all these in mind? How do you identify the fundamental learning goals? How do you ensure that your lessons and the tasks you assign actually help students achieve these goals?

For this, it is helpful to consider a few well outlined and defined instructional design approaches that can guide you toward these goals. All of these approaches offer a conceptual framework for thinking about your students’ learning and a rough template for how you might begin with planning your course. While each approach offers a slightly different set of instructional design principles, you will notice that there can be quite a bit of overlap between elements of the various approaches that borrow from similar teaching pedagogies. All of these approaches are not necessarily unique to blended learning course design and highlight good pedagogical practices and course design for any learning environment. Given that, keep in mind that none of these are strictly prescriptive and are flexible design outlines; it is entirely possible to blend parts of multiple approaches into your own unique design approach that is the best combination for your personal course design needs.

Backward Design

Backward design diagram
University of Indiana Center for Teaching & Learning

Backward design is an approach that makes learning outcomes the driver of course design decisions. The central question in backward design is “What do you want your students to know and be able to do by the end of your course?” The backward design process guides the instructor to ask and answer the following (in this order):

  1. Identify desired results
  2. Determine acceptable evidence, and finally:
  3. Plan learning experiences and instruction.

Backward design is a widely studied and implemented design model and perhaps the most commonly used one.

Prototype or Rapid Prototype Design (also called Iterative Design)

Prototype or Rapid Prototype Design diagram
Camosaun Centre for Excellence in Teaching & Learning

The prototype design model is also frequently called iterative design, modular design, or scalable design. The prototype design process is based on the principle of incremental course redesign combined with constant reflection on how well this redesign worked; the instructor redesigns portions of the course (or modules) one at a time and immediately evaluates their efficacy, makes changes, and then “retests” the module before moving onto another course component. These course modules that the instructor designs can mean anything from a 10-minute segment of the face-to-face lecture to an entire 2-week-long lesson in the course curriculum. For this reason, the prototype model can be especially helpful to instructors who want to progressively move from an entirely face-to-face teaching model to a blended learning model and are not able to do an entire course redesign for a blended model before the course begins.

Multimodal design

Multimodal design diagram
Sloan-C

The multimodal design model focuses on the delivery of the course content and materials and encourages the instructor to provide as many learning modalities as possible to give students a choice of pathways to learning that correspond to their individual learning strengths and skills. This means incorporating various methods of face-to-face instruction/learning and online learning in the course with the goal of responding to as many students’ learning styles as possible. The multimodal design approach IS blended learning at its core, but how it is structured can vary widely: the face-to-face and online environments can “duplicate” lectures and activities, the instructor could primarily use a face-to-face or online environment but incorporate diverse activities in the other non-primary environment, or the instructor could include a true mix of both environments. The key concept is that the multimodal model promotes multiple points of access to materials in each environment and learning space (for example, the online environment might be a computer lab one day, an at-home assignment another day, and an online lecture the next).

Learner-driven design

The learner-driven design model is frequently used in K-12 education and encourages student-instructor collaboration, to some extent, in order to set learning goals and objectives. This design model enlists the users (students) to be active goal setters in their own learning and ask them to participate in a “feedback loop” of sorts that will ultimately determine the learning objectives of the course. Learner-driven design concepts are fundamental in all instructional design approaches, since all approaches are student-centered and consider the best pathway to effective student learning when designing a course. The strict learner-driven design model takes this student-centered curriculum one step further and relies heavily on classroom collaboration and the role of the instructor as the “facilitator” in students’ learning processes.

Learner-driven design diagram
University of West Georgia Distance Education

REFERENCE + LICENSE: The text “Blended Learning Design Approaches” by Steel Wagstaff, University of Wisconsin Pressbooks, via https://wisc.pb.unizin.org/teachingwithtech/chapter/blended-learning-design-approaches/, is licensed under CC BY 4.0, rephrased and shortened by SEA-EU.

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Topic: Prepare a blended learning session    Time: 10 min

Creating a Blended Learning Activity

When developing activities in blended learning, there are some important points to keep in mind. Follow the link for a step-by-step guide to activity development.

Step 1. Identify and reflect upon a prior learning activity:

Since we’re taking a previous activity or topic and redesigning it to a blended learning framework, we will start by thinking about that prior experience and how it worked for your class.

Key Questions:

  • What is the learning activity?
  • What worked well with the assignment?
  • What challenges did you or your students experience?
  • Were there special materials you developed for the activity or topic?
  • Was the topic formally assessed? How?
  • How much time was devoted to the topic in class? Out of class?
  • How much time would you like to devote to your blended learning activity in class? Out of class?

Step 2. Define your learning objectives:

The learning objectives are the foundation for the entire activity. Writing out clear and measurable objectives will help guide the remaining steps in the development of your activity. Remember to use a specific verb (avoid “understand” or “know”) when crafting your learning objectives.

Key Questions:

  • What do you want your students to know or do upon completion of the activity?
  • At what level of Bloom’s Taxonomy do you hope to position the objective (Remember, Understand, Apply, Analyze, Evaluate, Create)?
  • What are the specific learning objectives for your activity?

Step 3. Define your assessment goal:

Without getting into too much detail, start to think about how you’ll know whether your students have met the learning objective you defined above. Think about what you’ll need to see in order to determine whether the students have attained the goal.

Key Questions:

  • How will you know whether your students have met the objectives you defined for the activity?
  • Will the student need to recall information? Demonstrate a skill? Produce something?

Step 4. Consider the blended learning models:

Before we begin planning the activity, think about the blended learning models and how they might inform your decision making and parameters of your activity.

Key Questions:

  • What physical resources do you have at your disposal to help meet the objective (classroom space, technology, text, articles)?
  • What virtual resources do you have at your disposal to help meet the learning objectives (learning management system tools, blog, media)?
  • What combination of virtual and physical resources might make sense as you look to plan your activity?

Step 5. Plan and sequence your instructional strategies:

As we’ve seen, a blended learning activity can include a series of components that work together to meet specific learning objectives. Below are the key considerations. Depending on the length, complexity, and scope of your activity, not all of these may be elements to consider. However, keep these in mind as you plan for other blended learning activities or course design after this workshop and as you move toward a blended learning model for your course.

Key Questions:

  1. Managing your activity
    • How will your orient students to the activity?
    • What instructions are necessary for the student to be clear about the task and successful in completing the requirements?
  2. Cultivating the blended environment & facilitating community building
    • What will student-to-student interaction look like? What are the parameters, requirements, and tone for this?
    • What will student-to-instructor interaction look like? How will you facilitate this, and how will you communicate this to your students?
    • What will student-to-content interaction look like? What expectations, instructions, and levels of engagement will you convey to your students?
  3. Defining assessment measures
    • What scoring criteria or rubrics will you use for this activity? What information will you make available to your students?
    • How will this activity be weighted, scored, or assessed relative to the other assignments in the course?
    • How will you communicate to your students the goal and the importance of this activity and its assessment?
  4. Communicating precise instructions
    • What mechanical details are involved in this activity (e.g., number of words/pages, style guide for citations, number of posts to discussion forum, etc.)?
    • What tools or instructions to your students need (and do you need to make available to them) to complete this activity successfully?
REFERENCE + LICENSE: The text “Creating a Blended Learning Activity” by Steel Wagstaff, University of Wisconsin Pressbooks, via https://wisc.pb.unizin.org/teachingwithtech/chapter/creating-a-blended-learning-activity/, is licensed under CC BY 4.0, shortened by SEA-EU.

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Topic: Prepare a flipped learning session    Time: 20 min

A Beginner's Guide to Flipped Classroom

The flipped classroom reverses the conventional combination of direct instruction and homework. Learners can engage with the content independently prior to face-to-face teaching meaning in-class time can be used more effectively and intensively. Competent preparation and delivery are vital to the success of this approach. The linked article provides an entry-level overview of the flipped classroom method as well as guidance on preparing a programme.

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