Transforming the online learning experience

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At Business Co-Design (BCD), academics, educational developers, learning technologists and learning designers work together to create engaging online learning experiences. As a digital learning designer, I evaluate the content of digital courses and advise academics on possible ways to transform the learning content into interactive online activities. Academics play their part as Subject Matter Experts (SME) by supplying for each online module, the learning content and the learning outcomes students need to be able to perform at the end of each module. In this blog, I will share with you the work I do for this transformation.

How does this design and development of interactive online activities work?

The complexity of transforming learning content
Research – Concept. Elements are on different layers.

When designing the online component of units, I need first to understand the aim of the unit of study. The starting point is to read the unit outline. As the assessment plan and the learning outcomes are clearly defined in this document, I align the digital activities to these outcomes.

The second task is to analyse how weekly learning topics are divided and how to chunk that content for each week into diverse interactive activities that can bring meaningful and valid learning experiences.

When I start designing interactive activities, besides the technology choice, other considerations are at stake:

  • Inclusive learning

Design for diverse learning styles (videos, animation, podcast, polling/surveys, branching scenarios, wikis, discussion boards, games, visuals, formative quizzes).

  • Accessibility

This is not only for users that suffer a visual, acoustic, or motor impairment but think of insufficient bandwidth. Students using English as a second language will benefit from having captions in videos or a PDF to download to take away and read again later.

  • Formative assessment

Clarity of instructions, examples, alignment with summative assessment format. For example, if quizzes are part of a summative assessment in the unit of study, then a few formative quizzes in the same format will assure students what to expect during the assessment. If a reflective report is the major assignment at the end of the semester, give students online activities that will enable them to write effective short reflections each week.

  • Analysis of content substance and format

Length, difficulty, subtlety – Presentation/digestible content – Is the content easy to understand? Does the content need visuals/media or graphs to be more explicit?

  • Consistency

Using the same online tools on particular pages in the online module (e.g. the introduction page or the summary page). This is to foster a kind of routine, a familiarity of tasks that are done weekly.

  • Teacher’s presence in the online module

Besides videos and weekly announcements, audio feedback or teacher’s automatic answer in polls and quizzes can help reinforce the teacher’s presence in the online module and show students their opinions matter.

  • Fun

There is no better way to learn, then when you have a little bit of fun. In an asynchronous online course, this can be included in quizzes feedback, in the summary of a course module by including emojis and winning sounds, or short animations for case studies. Using avatars or persona is a fun way to explain situations with multiple stakeholders involved. Also, the classic rollover animations, drag and drop, hotspots activities, try again button, and animated gifs can add fun to online activities.

All these above considerations are necessary to apply when developing interactive activities in an online environment. If you would like to find out how to design for successful e-learning, please read the following blog.

Bridging the design to the experience

After implementation comes evaluation from student feedback about their learning experience with these online activities.

The last stage of this content transformation is to support the teaching team in learning how to tweak, refine or create new digital activities and make them confident to use the digital tools that produce them.

This completes the never-ending cycle of the ADDIE instructional design model: analyse, design, develop, implement, and evaluate. At the end of the evaluation phase, it is key to review what students said about their experience with these online interactive activities and make appropriate changes to deliver a new cycle that brings an effective student learning experience.

Banner photo credit/attribution: Pexels image

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I am passionate about learning design and digital environments. I work as a digital learning designer with the Business co-design team, creating and developing sustainable, accessible and innovative online units of study and supporting teachers with the use of digital technologies. My playground is educational technologies and learners interactions. With a background in Web Design / UX, I aim to deliver exciting and valid learning experience to students.

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