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  • Alexis Snelling

3 Examples of Online Learning by Doing

Learning by Doing

Amy Rottman and Salena Rabidoux suggest three examples of effective online applied learning. Applied learning is a practical approach that is supported by research to increase student motivation, foster student-centered instruction, and provide real world application. It is also an opportunity for high-impact learning, where students explore content and directly apply new knowledge.

There are many synonyms that refer to applied learning, such as experiential learning, project-based learning, and inquiry-based learning; however, for the purposes of this article, we refer to the idea of students applying learned content through critical thinking and reflection to demonstrate content knowledge as applied learning.

Critical thinking and reflection are intertwined within every applied learning experience. Critical thinking requires students to view multiple perspectives of content. Reflection enhances their ability to fully engage in the process of constructing meaning. The combination of both critical thinking and reflection fosters higher order thinking skills, problem solving, and the formulation of inferences.

Implementing critical thinking and reflection in an online environment is as simple as having students analyze a case study or asking open-ended questions that are phrased with explain, compare, why, and how to prompt divergent thinking. Online instructors can begin integrating applied learning experiences using the following techniques:

1. Cooperative Learning Cooperative learning offers a collaborative environment where students work together to achieve a common goal. Collaboration enhances individual accountability, increases interpersonal skills, and promotes interdependence. Cooperative learning has a natural structure where students can foster one another's academic growth, which can lead to higher mastery of content than instructor led training alone.

Online instructors can integrate Professional Learning Communities (PLC) as a technique to create cooperative learning experiences. A PLC is a group of individuals that meet regularly to share expertise, achieve common goals, and offer peer supported guidance. A PLC is distinguished from a group work assignment as it is a semester-long grouping that is comprised of 3-5 individuals.

PLCs interactions do not necessarily need to be graded as their main goal is to have students critically examine content in a collaborative environment that intertwines reflective practice, communication, and teamwork.

One strategy for enhancing the PLC experience is to assign roles for each individual. Assigned roles reinforce the cooperative learning experience because they require collaboration and reach into the realm of simulations. Examples of roles are: Facilitator -- serves as the team leader. Coordinates efforts with the instructor as needed when the entire PLC needs additional support. Serves as the key contact for the PLC group. Interpreter - serves as a clarifier for the PLC group members. Offers re-teaching of key concepts and content covered within each modules. Reminder -- serves as an “event planner;” reminds all group members about assignment deadlines and assignment criteria. Mentor -- serves as an assignment consultant. Summarizes assignment requirements, offers to review work before submission, and offers professional critiques relevant to the course. Communicator -- serves as the note-taker during team meetings. Responsibilities include writing meeting summaries, posting meeting notes in a shared space, and keeping track of time during meetings.

Depending on the length of the course, PLC roles can be rotated or remain the same throughout the course. Instructors who utilize PLCs find that they help with the management of the course because updates and big questions occur through the facilitator. Also, the facilitator offers a streamlined process in clarifying content updates and supporting student needs. Instructors have found students extend the PLC community into subsequent courses as well.

Implementation Example:

SheTransact's uses weekly project update circle discussion and .Live Stack Live Event accountability session. Each week they would quickly share 1 of their main updates they posted from the week and also then discuss 1 challenge they were facing for suggestions/help to solve. Having a formate to share & discuss made the meetings much more productive and ensured everyone got a lot of value of their 1 hour together each week.

Pro Tip: When you host your next speaking event create a discussion circle to brainstorm what questions they want to ask the guest speaker. Set a deadline to share their ideas. Then schedule an in person review in .Live Stack Live Meeting Event to narrow down the 3-5 questions to best represent the students interests. Collaboration Circles are easily set up in just a few clicks and provide deeper experiential learning moments for your students together and also apart online via the WeTransact app.

2. Service Learning Service learning enacts a civic responsibility with meaningful application of content knowledge. It is a technique that engages instruction with the surrounding community, corporations, local business and/or non-profits. Service learning requires students to plan and prepare the service, act upon the partnerships’ need, and reflect on the outcomes of their actions in conjunction with the course content. Service learning reinforces content knowledge through real-world application, and in online courses, it can have a broader reach for community support because students are often geographically scattered. Instructors can integrate assignments connected to learning objectives for volunteer opportunities within the students’ local communities.

Before implementing a service learning project, instructors must first scaffold content and/or skills connected to course goals. Then they can venture into service learning opportunities. After content delivery, partnerships are established either through instructor or student led connections.

Once the partnership is established, students conduct a needs assessment to best support the partner’s vision and/or mission. Based upon the results of the needs assessment, students develop a plan of action that is approved by both the instructor and the partner before implementation.

Critical reflection should occur throughout the service learning opportunity as well as during the conclusion of the action phase. Documentation and reflection of the service learning process and outcome are necessary components because they offer a culminating view of the content connection to a real-world application. Documentation and reflection can be delivered by students through the creation of a digital story or virtual presentation.

Implementation Example:

On International Women's Day Google Women Techmakers & Google Developer Groups created a workshop experience that would support the Ukrainian Red Cross. They selected an expert to lead this workshop that would double as a learning experience about how to create and NFT and then together learn how to sell to support their chosen mission to help the Ukranian Red Cross. The experience began with and welcome email to the registrants to login to the WeTransact app and follow the first task on their kan ban board to prep. for the workshop. The expert leading the workshop created a circle for all participants to collaborate and discussion important topics and questions as they learned together. The diligence questions ensured each participant was uploading their images and providing the permissions needed to create and sell together. After the workshop as the collection of images were minted and auctioned the participants were updated and even voted on next steps, like the launch date and brainstorm strategies. Many brought in their own research and links to share with the group during these discussions to make better informed decisions for their shared goal of raising money for Ukranain Red Cross.

Pro Tip: Create discussion topics with your participants when you meet. This way they can have a hand in their learning experiences and more likely to join the discussions.

3. Simulations A simulation is an imitation of a situation or a process. Simulations offer a role-playing perspective to the content in a digital venue that supports learning objectives and engages students in real world application prior to fieldwork Instructors can create digital simulations; however, many faculty members believe that to be laborious.

There are simple ways to integrate effective simulations without recreating the wheel. One strategy for creating a manageable simulation is by structuring discussion boards that utilize case studies where students simulate a person or situation is one approach to this applied learning technique. For example, nursing students are individually assigned a specific illness and each student then has to share symptoms they are experiencing. Then their classmates have to diagnose accordingly.

Instructors can also use pre-created simulations to enhance the learning experience that can be found through researching online resources. Below are several examples of pre-created simulations:

  • Provides real-world understanding of poverty and homelessness.

  • Build a DNA molecule by matching nucleotides.

  • Simulate the decision-making process for supporting sales associates.

Cooperative learning, service learning, and simulations are only a few techniques for embedding applied learning opportunities in online courses. Each applied learning technique offers a heightened learning experience for students; however, other applied learning techniques can be just as effective. No matter which applied learning technique you use, applied learning fosters critical thinking, reflective practices, and supports transfer of new knowledge in real-world situations. Online students, too, learn by doing!

Implementation Example:

Wichita State university ignitor accelerator program guided the participants thru 8 weeks of taking 1 idea and simulated turning it into a business. The culmination was a .Live Pitch Event where they presented their ideas to the group and community.

Pro Tip:

Create a pitch packet so all participants ideas are showcased on a more level playing field and in the same format. Not only will this ensure the simulation focuses on the content and experience vs. the graphic capability of some participants over others. This will also save you time organizing the .Live Stack Live Event from having to update decks last min. or technical issue that may arise from trying to screen share from different devices that maybe remotely being presented.

Bio Salena Rabidoux is teaching program coordinator and instructional designer at the University North Carolina at Wilmington. Amy Rottmann is assistant professor of education at Lenoir-Rhyne University. Read more

Amy Rottmann and Salena Rabidoux

Original Published on Inside Higher Ed : May 31, 2017

Updated: Implementation examples & Pro Tips 5/20/22 by Alexis Snelling

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