And we’ve reach the end! This is the tenth and final post reflecting on experiences of learning in the Master’s module Supporting the blended and online student experience.
So, what have I learned, and what does it matter? Through taking part in a number of experiential learning activities my perspective has changed. Looking back over the weeks, here are some of the main points I take away from participating in the module.
Blogging is great for learning and assessment
Blogging has been a great learning experience. The first few weeks were spent starting and abandoning a number of posts as I found my focus. In these early stages tutor feedback was so important to ensure the posts were what was expected. At the outset I’d anticipated that blogging would develop critical thinking, but I found it difficult to write in-depth in the space of a short informal blog post, and at times I’ve struggled to reconcile the informality of this project with the Master’s level assessment. Only one of my posts was less than 500 words and it’s one I wrote very quickly in reaction to a good experience I had with an online discussion. This reactionary record is a really useful post and shows that there is value in all types of record regardless of the depth or research behind them.
As a means of assessment blogging has been great, as it spreads the workload and reading back over the posts has been a valuable revision aid. I’ve also found that reading the blogs from my peers in the cohort has been like a warm blanket; they reflect my experiences and emotions and although the comments on the blog didn’t take off, every week my inbox brought tales from the others, it was a real treat. For the blended learner, doing work regularly in small chunks can maintain motivation and engagement so I plan to explore other types of assessment which follow this pattern.
Blogging is a highly valuable learning device and one I’d recommend to teachers and students, as long as they have the discipline to post regularly and are able to provide feedback on student work at an early stage.
The teacher’s role in motivation is more important than I realised
I kept coming back to the theme of motivation so I’ve learned that I am quite interested in this area! I now appreciate the impact that teacher actions have on learner motivation. To my surprise, one of the most controversial topics we looked at was gamification; it inspired and demotivated the cohort in equal measures and at different times. We learned to use game elements with care, in situations which needed them, and to provide choice.
A valuable lesson to pass on and to remember is that quiet students may not be disengaged, and that if there is a lack of motivation there is a lot a teacher can do to improve the course experience.
Let the learners do the talking
By running an online seminar in this module I reflected on approaches for facilitating online discussion activities. As a learner I had noticed the behaviour previously modelled by our own tutors and appreciated the space we were given to discuss and engage together as a cohort. In the seminar I aimed to do the same, to give the learners to time to think and develop their thoughts and to respond to one another, but it’s a tricky balance to ensure everyone feels heard, too. A point I will take away from this is that the tutor is the catalyst for online interaction, not the source of all knowledge. In my own practice this lesson means that online discussion activities need the time to develop and run their course whilst remaining within a constrained time-frame.
Experiential learning works
The most memorable aspects of this module have been the opportunities for experiential learning. Thanks to my peers who provided some excellent seminars I’ve experienced gamification, learning by listening to podcasts, learning by creating podcasts, and also facilitating learning for others. The most effective learning has taken place when I’ve been asked to create something, for example the podcast; being challenged to articulate my ideas through the spoken word required skills I haven’t used in this course (I mostly do a lot of reading and writing). Increasingly staff seek advice about producing podcasts for their students, but I’d like to turn this on its head and discuss with them how getting students to create resources for future cohorts could be of much more value.
With this in mind, to support my teaching colleagues to understand online learning more fully, and in turn to enable them to provide a better online student experience, I think it’s really important that I generate a range of varied experiential learning opportunities for colleagues to undertake online and to allow them to become online learners themselves.