Authentic Learning And The Online Classroom

Synchronous, Asynchronous And Hybrid Approaches

With synchronous classrooms, instructors and students are present for learning at the same time. Traditionally, having students turn on the camera feature was enough to ensure learning was taking place. Unfortunately, monitoring every student’s camera while teaching for a prolonged time proves to be quite a daunting task. The asynchronous classroom became more prevalent, and students were allowed to study on their own time. No live classes meant students were responsible for studying the materials and completing assessments on their own, using the guide or resources provided by the instructor. Self-motivation and discipline were paramount as independent learners. Considering the pros and cons of both, the hybrid classroom became quite popular in online offerings. Yes, there was ease for students as their preference for live or no live classes was met to some extent. Regardless of the approach, the importance of student accountability seems to be critical for authentic learning. The question then becomes, “what can instructors do to increase student accountability as the main driver for authentic learning in synchronous, asynchronous, and hybrid classrooms?”

3 Ways Instructors Can Promote Authentic Learning In Online Classrooms

1. Plan For Engagement In Every Lesson

What seems like a tedious and time-consuming task remains the best way to get student results, notwithstanding that technology has made it easier to execute lessons engagingly. It requires some research on the part of the instructor as the journey to find these tools may also involve a quest for knowledge. Taking control requires honesty and instructors can only be as confident as their competence in the request for technology use. Chunking lessons into smaller parts can provide the perfect medium for incremental engagement. Doing this consistently assures the student of the instructor’s stance on engagement and learning. It is the design of the activity that will make learning authentic. Having students demonstrate learning by producing work in short intervals creates a platform for thinking and applying, skills that are synonymous with authenticity.

  • Examples in synchronous classrooms
    There are tools that can be used that allow students to be working on the same document at the same time, and even when displayed by the instructor.
  • Examples in asynchronous classrooms
    Creating a crossword puzzle and creating interactive videos amplify engagement. Grading these interim assessments and making them a consistent charge is key.
  • Examples in hybrid classrooms
    A unique mixture of both synchronous and asynchronous examples is of essence.

2. Have A Clear And Concise Course Delivery Schedule

The best course delivery schedules include a topical outline in synchronous, asynchronous and hybrid spaces. When properly done, it can be the most value-added tool for students. Though topical outlays vary, the common headings of class dates (usually arranged by week 1, 2, etc.), learning targets, strategies, assignments, and due dates ignite student accountability. When this is done in table form, it provides clarity on expectations. In addition, course delivery schedules are one way to funnel accountability to students. It does not matter what the format is, instructors are encouraged to be prudent in using student-to-teacher and student-to-student discourse to tackle the challenge of authenticity in online spaces.

3. Determine The Right Mix Of Assessments

One of the first things students do when enrolled in an online class is go on a rampant search for peers who have taken the class before. The notion that exams, quizzes, and other assessments will be the same can be tackled with this mere knowledge. Before the upsurge of online offerings, the most prevalent mix followed a 60-40 rule in which 60% was a combination of assignments, participation, and classwork, while the remaining 40% comprised exams. It is difficult to pinpoint a universal rule; it does mean that the instructor’s autonomy is valued and suggestions are viewed as optional. Of equal importance is an understanding that grading a summative test may not be a comprehensive indicator of student understanding. Using case analysis and project-based assignments are two ways that can advance authentic learning. The following are some suggestions for eLearning spaces:

  • Synchronous: 40-30-30
    40% assignments and quizzes, 30% participation and discussion, and 30% project/case (including presentation)
  • Asynchronous: 50-25-25
    50% assignments, discussion, and quizzes, 25% project/case, and 25% final exam.
  • Hybrid: 60-40
    60% assignments, discussion, and quizzes, 40% project/case.

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