A student who has not been present in a physical class should be able to continue to learn without confusion—without any increase in cognitive load. A student who is reviewing the material at home should be able to easily comprehend the topic. All of his or her cognitive efforts should be focused on learning, rather than trying to work out…

  • What to do.
  • Where to locate resources.
  • What resource should be used next.
  • What a particular resource is there for—and all those other confusing things that can occur in courses.

The following image is a screen shot from another course. It has been designed with the learner in mind.

It contains…

  • Context (text that explains the information).
  • Sequencing (the sequence for effective learning of the concepts is obvious).
  • A variety of resources. (There are videos, documents, and more that are not visible in this screen shot.)
  • More effective presentation and formatting of learning resources, and thus is more inviting for learners.

west2

Conclusion

The best LMS or OLE in the world can fail to deliver improved learning outcomes if the courses are poorly designed and implemented from a learning perspective. For the experience to be effective, the educator designing the course should constantly ensure that the student and learning are at the center of the paradigm, rather than the teacher and teaching. Asking the following questions can help with this:

  1. Is this course designed to be easy for the student to understand by himself or herself? Are the navigation and the sequence of the learning materials easy and obvious? Is there sufficient context or explanation surrounding the learning resources?
  2. Is each learning resource self-contained? Can a student use the resource independently and understand what is being explained, or will he or she require assistance from a teacher?
  3. Is the range of learning materials sufficient? Are different learning styles catered for? Are there resources that provide alternative methods of explanation for those students who need this?

By successfully answering these questions, and by ensuring that they are placing the student at the center of the paradigm, educators can build online courses that will be used effectively by students to enhance learning. That, in turn, will help educators take blended or online learning to the next level—where the teacher can focus on the higher-order aspects of learning and the more personalized aspects of teaching.

Peter West is Director of eLearning at Saint Stephen’s College in Australia. He has over 15 years’ experience leading K-12 schools in technology enhanced education, particularly blended learning using online learning environments. He can be contacted at pwest@ssc.qld.edu.au.