Student Benefits: "How will it help my students?"
Creating online learning material is a challenge at the best of times. Here we address the common concerns that staff have.
- What are the benefits of using Learning Technology?
- How can I prove my students are learning better this way?
- How can I improve student motivation to learn online?
- How are my peers at UCL using LT?
- What is being achieved with Learning Technology nationally?
What are the benefits of using Learning Technology?
If used correctly (and with a bit of luck) Learning Technology can be beneficial for your students, UCL and yourself.
Benefits to Students:
- Online access to course materials means students can study at a time and location that suits them and can quickly locate misplaced notes.
- Responsibility for learning is placed with the student, which is an essential step for lifelong learning to take place.
- Increased motivation in learning as a natural consequence of the engaging nature of interactive websites.
- Instantaneous feedback can be incorporated into the design of online materials so that students can reflect on their mistakes as and when they happen.
- Widening participation through learning materials that can be used for distance learning and are accessible.
Benefits to UCL:
- Saves time and money and so unlocking further resources which can be used for further enhancing teaching.
- Enhances image of college as a progressive institution which using innovative teaching practices alongside tried and tested traditional approaches.
Benefits to You:
- More time for research because you've automated a lot of repetitive teaching and administration duties.
- Continuous professional development will undoubtedly be required as you develop new skills to enable you to use Learning Technology efficiently.
- Improved quality of teaching through a review and update of teaching practices whereby learning becomes more efficient and effective.
- Fewer requests for replacement texts from students because they can easily locate them online.
How can I prove my students are learning better this way?
It's actually very hard to prove that your students are learning better when you change your teaching. A whole area of methodological research within education is dedicated to exploring this problem. What you can do is make some informed judgements, or prove that your students are at least learning differently.
You can look at year-on-year comparison of test scores, exam performance or student satisfaction as an indication that the new approach to teaching has had some effect. There are problems with each of these approaches, though. Comparison of scores ignores the fact that these are different students and that you're likely to be more aware of problems they experience if you're trying out a new approach. Both of these factors could complicate your analysis. Looking at student satisfaction doesn't actually show that they are performing any differently, just that they are happy enough with what's happening.
Some people attempt to carry out controlled comparisons. Again, this is difficult. It's very hard to stop students helping each other out (cross-group contamination) or sharing logins with their friends. There are also ethical issues to consider. (Do you want to stop students helping each other, or prevent them using a resource you think improves their learning?)
Although there are problems associated with each of these indicators, if you use several and they all suggest the same kind of impact the chances are that the change has had some impact on students' learning.
How can I improve student motivation to learn online?
There are two main approaches to improving motivation:
- The first is to link their online activities to assessment,
for example by requiring contributions to be made to discussion
areas or awarding marks for completion of online assessment. This
certainly increases use of the online environment, but students
often engage in a superficial way, "playing the game"
to make sure they get their marks. It will create the impression
of motivated study, but this might be quite misleading.
The second approach requires more thought, but is usually more effective. The online component of the course needs to be relevant and useful. If there are things that need to be done online, then students will do them. You might ask them to review web sites on a particular topic, carry out an online discussion whilst they are on a clinical placement, post up pictures of a work of art or an engineering project they have created and so on.
Students will also use online materials if they make life easier. If they know that the latest update on the course will always be available online, they will get into the habit of checking the course web site. If past exam questions, mark schemes or sample essays are made available online, alongside a Frequently Asked Question page, then they will read them and ask questions. If copies of lecture handouts or slides are stored online, they will use the site to access them rather than asking for photocopies.
The key to this is to look at what you are putting online from the students' point of view. Ask yourself, "why bother?" If there is no obvious point to the resource, it's unlikely you will motivate your students to make use of it. Making sure that what you're doing is relevant and meaningful will make all the difference.
What is being achieved with Learning Technology nationally?
Page last modified on 19 feb 09 17:30