This feature scaffolds students (working in groups) to design and develop their own two-week mini-course. Initially, each group learns the contents for its mini-course (an issue in online learning and instruction) by reading and discussing relevant literature. Then the group designs the mini-course (syllabus, schedule, activities involving creation of cooperative and collaborative online artefacts, scaffolding, etc.) that implement these contents. Finally, the group teaches its mini-course online to the rest of the class.
The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
It is important that students who learn about online teaching and learning have an opportunity to actually experience the situations which arise in design and implementation of online teaching. This is especially important for students who intend to integrate online activities in their teaching.
Context of Use:
This feature is part of a course, designed for undergraduate and graduate students, which focuses on theoretical and practical aspects of online learning and instruction. The first few weeks of the course take place online and are devoted to community-building and discussion on students’ initial perceptions about online learning. In the second part of the course, students work in groups to build their own online mini-course, which focuses on one issue about online learning and instruction in which they specialize (e.g., creating a sense of a community, the role of the teacher, supporting metacognitive processes, etc.). In the final part of the course, students study each others’ mini-courses, taught by their peers, provide feedback to each other, and reflect on the whole process.
To evaluate the effect of the process of designing and teaching the mini-courses on student learning about theoretical and practical aspects in online instruction, we analyzed three aspects of the process of designing the mini-courses and the final artifacts: (a) students’ understanding of the contents (as reflected in the online discussions students participated in during the process of learning the topic and designing their mini-courses) (b) the design of activities (to what extent activities supported the contents and a socio-constructivist approach and were also clear and inviting) (c) the quality of instruction of the courses (the extent to which instructors were attentive to their learners’ emerging needs, in terms of understanding procedures, comprehension of contents, and collaboration with other learners).
Since the feature only changed slightly in the second enactment, and since no significant difference was found between the two enactments regarding the quality of mini-courses, data was merged from two enactments of the course (total of N=48, number of groups = 15). Outcomes indicate that the mean values for the three aspects were as follows: Understanding of contents – 84% (SD=16%), Design of activities – 90% (SD=12%), and Quality of instruction – 88% (SD= 14%). The rather high variance can be explained by the fact that participants were a mix of undergraduate and graduate students. However, the high mean value, indicates that the quality of the mini-courses were high for the analyzed aspects. This indicates that the feature supported students’ learning, especially of practical aspects in online learning and instruction.
These findings were strengthened by the analysis of the survey (N=48), which revealed that students perceived the mini-courses as a great contribution to their learning. In a scale of 1-5, the construct “Reading and discussing the literature in preparation for designing the mini-course” received a score of 4.8 (SD=0.4), “Design and development of the mini-course” 4.8 (SD=0.5), and “Instruction of the mini-course” 4.7 (SD=0.6).
Evidence to the type of learning that took place in this process can be found in responses to an general open-ended question in the survey. In these responses students explained in which manners the design of the mini-courses contributed to their learning. For instance, one student said “It was a great experience to instruct the mini-courses, we had to deal with many issues such as, what to do when the learning takes different directions than we planed, how do we support participation, how do we refer to posts in the forum which we don’t agree with”
Levin-Peled R., Kali, Y & Dori, Y.J. (in press). Promoting Collaborative Learning in Higher Education: Design Principles for Hybrid Courses. Proceedings of the Computer Support for Collaborative Learning (CSCL) International Conference, 2007, New Jersey, USA, July 16-21, 2007
.Y.J.Dori, R. Levin-Peled, and Y. Kali (2006). Learning and Assessment in IT-based Environments: Design Principles for Hybrid Courses in Higher Education. Proc. E-Learn – World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Health Care and Higher Education. Honolulu, HI, USA, Oct. 13-17, pp. 1933-1939.