Instructional Strategies should be designed to produce a precise learning experience (Horton, p. 38). “Learning activities exercise basic skills, thought processes, attitudes, and behaviors” (p. 38). A simple act does not equate to a learning activity such as clicking a mouse or discussing personal matters in an online forum (Horton). Activities should “support learner progression through the content material and include real world experiences and active learning strategies” (O’Neil, Fisher, Newbold, 2004, p. 88). Students learn by reflecting, applying, synthesizing, constructing, discussing, evaluating, and applying. In addition, learning activities in and of themselves are inadequate to achieve learning objectives. According to Horton, to realize learning objectives, three distinct types of learning activities are required (p. 9):
Absorb activities primarily inform, yet they can inspire. They enable motivated learners to obtain crucial information required to advance learning in the classroom or workplace. Absorb activities require learners to read, listen, and watch. Such activities sound passive, but they are an active aspect of learning (Horton, p. 47).
Absorb activities are closest to pure information within the framework of the three types of activities (absorb, do, and connect). Learners must act to extract and comprehend knowledge from absorb activity information. While the learner appears physically passive, they are yet mentally active. Information must be “perceived, processed, consolidated, considered, and judged.” The content, actually the writer/designer of it, is in control. Learners “absorb knowledge offered by the content” (Horton, p. 47).
The following Absorb-type activities have been established in the face-to-face classroom. The following are best practices for incorporating Absorb activities into the online classroom (Horton, p. 47-104; Ko and Rosson, 2004, pp. 48-57; University of Maryland University College, “Teaching/Learning Activities;” Illinois Online Network, “Instructional Strategies for Online Courses”):
Description: The learner watches or listens to a slide show, demonstration, or podcast. Presentations convey information, demonstrate procedures, and model human behavior. Presentations provide key information or salient points (Horton, p. 49). Presentations include instructor lectures, simulations, charts, and graphs. They can be uploaded to and delivered through Blackboard using presentation tools such as PowerPoint and Panopto. Guest lecturers and subject matter experts can also be invited to participate through presentations (Ko and Rosson, 2004, p. 48).
Types of Presentations:
Slide Shows/Multimedia Presentations. An effective slide show uses just enough text and graphics to convey the main points. Slide shows work well for conceptual learning activities such as ideas, theories, principles of information systems, bodies of knowledge. Using a recorded voice narrative allows the instructor to convey more information and reach students who are visually impaired. A narrated slide show such as a PowerPoint presentation is appropriate for taking students through a series of steps (Horton, p. 50).
Resources for Online Presentation Development
How to Create Accessible PowerPoint Presentations
Create Presentations on the Web with Prezi
Good and Bad Web Design Features
Instructor Presentations: Lectures in Text Format. Text in the form of web pages is the best choice for converting lecture materials when other forms of presentations or closed captioning are not available. Text on a web page has the advantage that students can copy the materials and make their own notes having more time to reflect on what the instructor has said (Ko et al., p. 49).
Physical Demonstrations. Physical demonstrations show a person performing a physical task such as how to properly clean a wound. This type of demonstration can be live or recorded as video (Horton, p. 53).
Suggestions: Create physical demonstrations using Panopto software and upload to Blackboard. (Refer to Section Three: Online Learning Tools/Panopto for instructions on how to download and video presentations with Panopto).
Software Demonstrations. Software demonstrations show an expert performing a complex procedure with a computer program or software (Horton, p. 54).
Suggestion: Software demonstrations can easily be captured on the screen using Panopto software and uploaded to Blackboard. (Refer to Section Three: Online Learning Tools/Panopto for instructions on how to download and create video presentations with Panopto).
Informational Films. Informational films can include documentary films, now digitalized video.
Independent Documentary Films
The Media Burn Archive is a collection of over 6,000 independent, non-corporate tapes that reflect cultural, political and social reality as seen by independent producers, from 1969 to the present.
Using Videos in the Classroom: Pedagogy and The Sociological Cinemahttp://www.thesociologicalcinema.com/
Dramas. Dramas depict people in a fictional scene. Dramas can be used to illustrate an interview or reveal team dynamics.
Podcasts/Audio Presentations. Learners can download and play audio presentations on their computers or IPods. Podcasts are often lectures explaining a subject directly.
Suggestion: Audio podcasts can easily be created and uploaded to Blackboard. (Refer to Section Three: Online Learning Tools/Podcasts (Audacity) for resources on how to create audio files).
A final note on accomodating the learner’s characteristics or learning style with rich media. The single most important factor in learning is the learner’s level of prior knowledge. Mayer (as cited by Reiser et al.) found multimedia presentations which used text, images, and illustrations effectively were helpful to low-knowledge learners and improved learning. High-knowledge learners were found to “learn well under all conditions and able to compensate for poor presentation methods whereas low-knowledge learners are not” (p. 320).
Description: “Good instructors often tell stories and effective learners frequently remember stories better than any other part of the course. Such stories are an indispensable part of much soft-skills training” (Horton, p. 70). Words and voice inflection are essential ingredients in face-to-face classroom learning, thus it is important to find ways to include them in the online course. One of the most important uses of audio is to tell stories. Storytelling shows the human dimension of a subject. Stories, as told by the teacher (presented here), are Absorb activities. Stories told by the learner are Connect activities. The instructor should model and provide examples to assist students in developing storytelling skills for connect instructional activities.
Types of Storytelling
Stories told by the instructor. The learner listens to a story told by the instructor or another expert. The learner may be given the opportunity to tell a comparable story. The activity ends with a summarization of the points made within the story. Stories told by the instructor can include: Hero Stories, Love Stories, Disaster Stories Tragedies, and Discovery Stories (Horton, p. 70).
Description: “Sometimes the best e-learning is a good book . . . or a good e-book” (Horton, p. 78). Reading assignments are important to facilitate greater in-depth study of a topic. Students can be directed to books, e-books, electronic libraries, or individual documents that are well researched, organized, and written. Written documents provide the student with information that is visually organized and constructed in a straightforward sequence. Reading activities are appropriate when careful study and analysis is required. Use reading instructional activities when (Horton, p. 78):
It is important to provide multiple examples for Absorb type activities. Many lectures have too much theory and not enough concrete or practical examples. Examples can help students reason from general concepts to specific applications.
Do activities transform information from Absorb activities into knowledge and skills (Horton, p. 105). Do activities require learners to discern, parse, decipher, examine, prove, synthesize, organize, debate, evaluate, condense, refine, and elaborate. Learners apply knowledge through Do activities (Horton).
The following Do-type activities are presented in this section (Horton, p. 105-166; University of Maryland University College, “Teaching/Learning Activities;” Illinois Online Network, “Instructional Strategies for Online Courses;” Carnegie Mellon, “Identify Appropriate Instructional Strategies”):
Description: Practice activities give learners experience applying information, knowledge, and skills. Practice helps learners strengthen and refine skills, knowledge, and attitudes by applying them and receiving feedback. Practice activities provide learners the opportunity to exercise newly acquired abilities (Horton, p. 106).
Types of Practice Activities
Hands-On. Hands-on activities give learners real work to perform. In a hands-on activity, the learner completes a task outside the lesson, such as performing a calculation with an on-screen calculator, designing something on paper, or operating a piece of machinery. The hands-on activity guides learners through the real-life task, provides feedback on their success, and may test what they learned (Horton, p. 110).
Suggestion: Wikis are a Web-based tool that allows the instructor and students (many authors) to work on projects together, share resources, and collaborate. Wikis are a suitable tool for collaboration. (Refer to Section Three: Online Learning Tools/Wikis for more information and resources on Wikis).
Resources for Wikis and WordPress
Wikis for Everyone (How to Create a Wiki)
How to Start a Wiki Site
Get a Free WordPress Blog
Description: Discovery activities lead learners to make discoveries. Use discovery activities for exploratory learning, to reveal principles, trends, and relationships, and to inspire curiosity about a topic. Discovery activities include virtual laboratories, case studies, and role playing activities (Horton, p. 125).
Types of Discovery Activities
Virtual Labs and Field Trips. Virtual labs and field trips include the testing and evaluation information through experiments and examination (UMUC, 2011). Learners can try all kinds of experiments without the risk of damaging equipment or injuring themselves and others in a virtual lab. They can also conduct experiments not possible in even the most generously funded real laboratory (p. 128).
Suggestion: Second Life is a resource for virtual labs and field trips where numerous worlds have already been designed for students to explore. Also, Second Life allows students to collaborate online. (Refer to Section Three: Online Learning Tools/Second Life for more information and resources on Second Life).
Example of a Virtual Genetics Lab
SWIFT Project at the University of Leicester Genetics Lab YouTube Video
University of Leicester Virtual Genetics Lab Second Life Website
Case Studies. Case studies involve the evaluation of systems by observing and analyzing simulated situations or processes. Case studies provide relevant, meaningful experiences in which learners can discover and abstract useful concepts and principles (Carnegie Mellon, “Case Studies,” para. 1). Case studies are effective discovery activities when learners must actively apply analytical and problem-solving skills to the events cited in the case study. “Cases are the building blocks of problem-solving learning environments,” and can also be categorized as a Connect activity (Jonassen, 2011, p. 184). Case studies are especially well suited for “teaching judgment skills required to cope with ambiguous situations commonly faced in real life” (Horton, p. 131).
Role Playing. Just as children learn how to be an adult through playing to be an adult. Similarly, adult learners can learn by playing the role of someone else requiring the learner to view events from a different perspective. The instructor must state the goal and assign each student with a role to accomplish that goal. Learners must research their roles and collaborate through online discussion forums to play out their roles (Horton, p. 135).
Description: Games and simulations let people learn by playing. Studies conducted by Clark and Mayer (as cited by Reiser et al.) found simulations help students learn. Also, a study conducted by Moreno, Mayer, Spires, and Lester (as cited by Reiser et al.) “reported students learned better from a computer-based game designed to teach environmental science than when the identical material was presented as a tutorial with onscreen text and illustrations” (p. 320). Games and simulations allow learners to practice tasks, apply knowledge, and learn principles while having fun. Learning games can be designed in the form of quiz shows, board games, and video games to inspire curiosity. Most importantly, when real-world tasks present real dangers, simulations allow learners to perform such tasks without the risks of being harmed or injured (Horton, p. 141).
Types of Learning Games and Simulations
Connect activities help students apply learning to new situations they will encounter in the workplace and in their personal lives. “Connect activities bridge gaps by tying together previously learned skills and knowledge” (Horton, p. 167). The learner will gain higher-level knowledge and skills through connect activities. To determine if an activity is a Connect-type, it must “link” to and require previous knowledge or cue application of learning. Reflection and ill-structured real world problems are common Connect-type activities.
The following Connect-type activities are presented in this section (Horton, p. 167-214; University of Maryland University College, “Teaching/Learning Activities;” Jonassen, 2011):
Description: Reflection activities are simple learning experiences that prompt the leaner to examine ideas from a new perspective. Reflection activities encourage broader and more in-depth thought about a topic, and they can promote conceptual breakthroughs by getting learners to integrate separate ideas in new and different ways (Horton, p. 170).
Types of Reflection Activities
Suggestion: Blogs are a great tool for students to post and log private reflections. Permission settings can be modified to allow only the instructor and/or classmates to access, read, and comment. For more information on how to set up a free blog, refer to Section Three: Online Learning Tools/Blogs.
Description: Research is an essential skill. Memorization of facts and data will not suffice in most fields. Guided research coaches learners to how to perform research. In individually or in teams, conduct research by gathering, analyzing, evaluating, organizing and reporting on findings. Research skills, methodology, evaluation and reporting, quantification, synthesis, and skill development are the objective of guided research activities (UMUC, 2011).
Description: Problem Solving activities require the learner to apply what they have learned to develop a viable solution or solution paths to a complex, real-world problem. Problem solving helps students connect theories and take responsibility for knowledge. Problem solving requires deductive powers, inferential reasoning, testing assumptions, and decision making skills (UMUC, “Instructional Strategies”). Jonassen (2011) argues that the:
The only legitimate cognitive goal of education (formal, informal, or other) in every educational context (public schools, universities and [especially] corporate training) is problem solving. Problem solving is the most authentic and therefore the most relevant learning activity that students can engage in. Research has shown that knowledge constructed in the context of solving problems is better comprehended, retained, and therefore more transferable (p. 1)
Types of Problem Solving Activities
Suggestion: Blogs and Wikis are excellent tools allowing instructors to design complex problem scenarios and students to collaborate and design a viable solution path(s). Refer to Section Three: Online Learning Tools/Wikis or Blogs for more information and resources on how to use these tools.