Louise's eLearning Blog

Helping Teachers understand the complexities of online contextualisation

Posted on: January 16, 2010

Why do teachers often struggle with contextualisation when developing their online courses?

Generally good teachers have no problem adding context to their delivery (though some presenters do struggle – see previous post), however many do not understand why it is important to put more than files into a VLE to make it a useful resource for learners.

Online Course showing just links

Online Course: Example showing just links to files and activities

Sukhwant Lota included the recommendation to add context to an online course in his blog ‘5 tips to enhance your Moodle course‘, but this doesn’t address how to do it or how to demonstrate / explain to teachers so they fully understand. Hopefully this post will address those issues.

The first technique I usually use when training teachers how to create and develop their online presence is to get them to talk through the ‘normal’ classroom delivery of a session from a lesson plan. Then I introduce the scenario that there is no tutor in the classroom when the students arrive, just a pile of handouts and resources on a table. Then question:

How would the students know what to do with the bits and pieces on the table?
Would they be able to learn effectively or at all?

This usually results in individuals realising how much and what type of input, linkage and contextualisation, both planned and incidental, a teacher integrates into a session to help shape and ensure the success of a formal learning opportunity. Once teachers realise that, they begin to look at online learning (designing) in the same way as classroom delivery planning. It is usually at this point that teachers acknowledge that they need to replicate / reproduce their own input so that the online learning becomes more relevant and effective.

Key elements that could / should be embedded in and around files, resources and/or activities, to improve the quality / ease of use of a course, include:

  • Section Headings – to clearly separate each element / unit of learning
  • Introductory Statements – to set the scene at the beginning of a section, task or activity
  • Navigation Text – to help individuals find their way around the site before and/or after completing activities / tasks. (i.e. Use the breadcrumb trail to return to this page after completing X.)
  • Instructional Text – to help individuals understand how to complete something (i.e. Watch the video clip and then add your thoughts to the forum.)
  • Motivational Text – to encourage engagement, participation and/or continuation.
  • Feedback Comments – to keep learners on task and motivated. To confirm where participation / engagement has been positive / correct and/or needs additional work. (The different types of feedback that can be used in different situations will be detailed in a separate post)
  • Concluding / Summary Statements – to clarify / recap what has just been covered (or should have been), usually with information that details how this links to the next / future sections, units, activities and/or tasks.

Finally the image below shows how much better an online course looks with the addition of both text that adds context / direction and images that improve the visual appearance of the course.

Online course with additional text and images

Online course: with additional text and images to enhance the course

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2 Responses to "Helping Teachers understand the complexities of online contextualisation"

Great post and makes lots of sense, Its exactly how im trying to get our staff to see online learning – lets get rid of the lists and lists of resources!!

This is a really interesting post – we are looking at how we can help tutors to think about these issues when they design their sites. Are you aware of any published literature that has evaluated benefits of contextualisation? Have been searching, but with little success…any suggestions gratefully received!

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