One enduring problem with online solutions is that they have to actually be used by teachers for the benefit of students. For example, if an LMS is just a grand-flash-drive in the sky, where a teacher periodically places a few activities, students will have no motivation to engage with it. The result will be learning analytics that show the student has low-participation. This is not the student’s fault. Why would you visit a dead-space to see if a teacher has uploaded another task? This is also true for games – why visit a world where nothing much happens?
If the system is used poorly: no feedback at the point of learning; unmarked work, incomplete grading etc.,- the student is hardly going to value it.
If the teacher relies on the machine to grade the work and set the agenda (endless quizzes) then the machine is the teacher and the teacher just the operator. Where the course is poorly designed, resourced and rarely used by the teacher – it’s easy to see why the student wouldn’t value it – and find something else to do with their laptop.
There are 5 aver-arching rules for working with any online system
- Make a great first impression
- Create a course that’s easy to navigate
- Make it easy for students to find everything
- Let students know what to expect
- Keep students informed and engaged
The benefits are also super simple
- Ease of use of the tool saves time and cognitive energy when locating and using course materials
- Facilitates student-centered learning
Feedback given as part of formative assessment enables learners to consolidate their strengths, identify their weaknesses and guides them about the necessary actions in order to achieve the learning outcomes.
Again, using a system doesn’t mean, sticking your practice on auto-pilot and leaving the machine’s algorithms to give students feedback.
Feedback, throughout the course, should be electronic and verbal. It should be:
- timely: feedback is more effective if it is provided timely since students can still recall how they addressed each assessed task. Timely feedback timeframe is clearly communicated to the students.
- motivational: feedback may have a positive or negative effect on student motivation and self-esteem. It affects students’ personal feelings which, in turn, affect their engagement in the learning process. As a result, formative feedback should be empowering and constructive.
- individual/personal: each student has unique strengths and weaknesses. As a result, in order to be effective and enable students to improve their competences, formative feedback must fit each student’s achievements.
- manageable: feedback should certainly be detailed enough to ensure that students understand their strengths and weaknesses.
So while we have some very powerful tools, ranging from free to the institutional LMS, they all demand teacher-engagement – not just with the design of the course, but in communication with each student – especially where there are large numbers of students. Systems which shovel ‘work’ and variably issue ‘grades’ but no feedback not only de-motivate and dis-engage students from using the system, but also impact how the students see the class or institution — all of which is well researched.
The bottom line is that all digital tools we are using in pursuit of student productivity, organisation and assessment need to be able to do the above – because the teacher is present in the space. – so any ‘ghost town’ experience – teacher afk – is something to be avoided at all cost. Students soon work out who is present in online spaces and act accordingly.