Course Design at TRU-OL
There are typically two types of formats for OL courses:
- Online paced courses where students study in cohort groups;
- Web courses, which are independent study courses. Students enroll at different types and can take up to 30 weeks to complete the course.
These different formats have implications for activity design. Click the + to learn more!
Choosing Learning Activities
Learning activities are an important part of every lesson, as they allow students to engage with the material and apply their learning to various contexts.
A learning activity can take many forms, from reading a textbook, searching online for articles, watching a video interview, or participating in an interactive simulation. The following are some examples of learning activities in Open Learning courses.
Check out the Media page for activity ideas and see below about the Remix, Reuse, Reshare – Learning Activities Repository.
This resource is an extensive bank of activities providing instructions that you can adapt to your own discipline and context.
It is searchable by field category, as well as tags. Activities are assigned fields according to the type of interaction in the activity, structure, discipline, learning taxonomy, activity type and creative commons license. Each comes with a brief description, as well as the full text of the activity.
You are invited to search the resource and use whatever you find most useful. Also, you can contribute your own successful learning activities and comment on those you reuse, adapt or explore! If you use or adapt a resource, please reshare your version.
We hope you will find this online resource useful for your teaching and/or design practice!
Online Learning Styles
The Illinois Online Network has developed educational resources to support online education. Their page on Learning Styles and the Online Environment provides a useful overview of how learning styles manifest themselves in the online environment. It also links to quizzes for you to find out more about multiple intelligences and your own learning style!
For a more applied view of how students develop online learning strategies, read Roper’s (2007) article How Students Develop Online Learning Skills. Roper highlights seven strategies of successful online learners. The Illinois Online Network has also developed a portrait of What Makes a Successful Online Student that you may find interesting.
For an examination of Kolb’s learning styles in relation to online learning, read Richmond and Cumming’s (2005) article Implementing Kolb’s Learning Styles into Online Distance Education. This article investigates Kolb’s Experiential Learning theory, evaluates learning style research in online environments and how student learning styles can be considered in an online course.
Various pedagogical theories/models have defined distance education curriculum development over the years.
Dr. Terry Anderson, in a 2010 CIDER session, “Three Generations of Distance Education Pedagogy,” talks about the challenges and opportunity afforded by the behavioral/cognitive, constructivist and connectivist models, with a focus on the development of connectivism! Click for SlideShare of presentation.
Collaborative Problem-Based Learning
In a problem-based approach, small groups work together to solve challenging, open-ended problems. This collaboration is facilitated by the instructor, whether online or face to face.
In Authentic Activity as a Model for Web-Based Learning – Reeves, Herrington and Oliver (2002) identify the following ten characteristics of authentic activities:
- Authentic activities have real-world relevance
Activities match as nearly as possible the real-world tasks of professionals in practice rather than decontextualized or classroom-based tasks.
- Authentic activities are ill-defined, requiring students to define the tasks and sub-tasks needed to complete the activity
Problems inherent in the activities are ill-defined and open to multiple interpretations rather than easily solved by the application of existing algorithms. Learners must identify their own unique tasks and sub-tasks in order to complete the major task.
- .Authentic activities comprise complex tasks to be investigated by students over a sustained period of time
Activities are completed in days, weeks and months rather than minutes or hours. They require significant investment of time and intellectual resources.
- Authentic activities provide the opportunity for students to examine the task from different perspectives, using a variety of resourcesThe task affords learners the opportunity to examine the problem from a variety of theoretical and practical perspectives, rather than requiring a single perspective that learners must imitate to be successful. The use of a variety of resources rather than a limited number of preselected references requires students to detect relevant from irrelevant information.
- Authentic activities provide the opportunity to collaborate
Collaboration is integral to the task, both within the course and the real world, rather than achievable by an individual learner.
- .Authentic activities provide the opportunity to reflect and involve students’ beliefs and values
Activities require and enable learners to make choices and reflect on their learning both individually and socially.
- Authentic activities can be integrated and applied across different subject areas and extend beyond domain-specific outcomes
Activities encourage interdisciplinary perspectives and enable learners to play diverse roles and build expertise that is applicable beyond a single well-defined field or domain.
- . Authentic activities are seamlessly integrated with assessment
Assessment of learning is seamlessly integrated with the major activity in a manner that reflects real world assessment, rather than separate artificial assessment tasks that are removed from the nature of the tasks inherent in completing the activity.
- Authentic activities create polished products valuable in their own right rather than as preparation for something else
Activities culminate in the creation of a whole product rather than an exercise or sub-step in preparation for something else.
- Authentic activities allow competing solutions and diversity of outcomes Activities allow a range and diversity of outcomes open to multiple solutions of an original nature, rather than a single correct response obtained by the application of predefined rules and procedures (p.3).
An interesting articles about problem-based learning that you may find helpful:
Savery, J. (2006). Overview of Problem-based Learning: Definitions and Distinctions. Interdisciplinary Journal of Problem-Based Learning. Vol 1, Issue 1, Article 3.
You can also find a lot of additional resources about problem based learning on the Problem-Based Learning Initiative website.
Dr. Peter Hsu has also developed seven modules about collaborative problem-based learning for online course developers. You may want to take the time to view these modules in preparation for developing your online course!
Inclusive design is defined by the University of Toronto’s ATRC (Adaptive Technology Resource Centre) as “design that enables and supports the participation of individuals and groups representing the full range of human diversity” (ATRC, 2010).
The main principle of inclusive design is to create a more personalized learning environment. It means designing courses where learners have choices that will allow them to more easily access materials.
For TRU-OL, this means providing materials in a variety of formats, ensuring images and video have scripts and captions, ensuring resources follow accessibility standards, using flexible and adaptive assessment methods, and designing active learning environments.
Universal Design For Learning
As defined by the CAST organization, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is “…a framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn”.
Visit their research page for digital tools to learn more about innovative research into inclusive and effective education practice!