online learning

How teaching online during COVID-19 lockdown made me think deeply about how physical presence matters

There’s a general feeling among teachers of pride and relief that we got through the recent few months when were teaching online. And at the moment, all of us are feeling for our school teacher colleagues in Melbourne who face returning to the challenges of teaching remotely again in just a week with their city again in lockdown.

Teaching this year has been hard work. I spent most of my hours online and ‘with others’. The surprising thing was just how much I missed feeling how my students were thinking. This was more than just how the relationships changed online. This was how my senses were stimulated in different ways and how this altered my capacity to feel the group was together and who was thinking. In a world looking for ways to beat the robots, this may be one skill we should pay attention to.

The experience of online teaching, especially in a course that required students to take risks in thinking and feeling, has spurred my curiosity on what we gain and lose when our proximity changes. Mostly I want to know if others teachers share this experience and what is it that we can learn.

Sensing our students

The question came up in a webinar during the lockdown, ‘What do you find the most challenging about online learning?’. The host, a fabulous experienced online educator, gave us ‘thinking time’ and then asked us to simultaneously post our thoughts in the chat.

I tell it like it is, so I wrote, ‘I missed hearing them breathe’. I was a little embarrassed about the intimacy of such a statement so I was surprised when so many comments said pretty much the same thing. Teachers wrote, ‘sensing their engagement’, ‘noticing when things don’t make sense’, ‘knowing they get it’, ‘really seeing the one student amongst the 20 onscreen’, the ‘feeling that things are buzzing’.

There’s something curious about how we ‘feel each other’ in person versus how we see and hear each other online.  A troubled but brilliant Austrian-British philosopher, Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein, helped us understand this when he said, ‘The human body is the best picture of the human soul’.

Schooling and the ‘soul’

In my experience, learning that makes us think, lifts off when we see and respond to the ‘soul’. Whilst soul is not a word we see in education thinking, there are numerous philosophical notions in education that are also understood in this way, take for example education thought leaders such as Gert Biesta, Pasi Sahlberg and Sir Ken Robinson. Anyone familiar with their work knows they are often talking about being human.

As I see it, Biesta knocks it out of the park when he calls out the purpose of schooling in three ways; qualification, socialisation and subjectification.

Qualification is something to have as you navigate through your schooling into adult life. Think of qualifications like the passports into employment and further study.

Socialisation happens throughout the schooling years. This is not just in how we behave, think hygiene habits and common courtesy, it also gives us shared stories to bind and protect our institutions and identify. For example, curriculum decisions, such as whether we taught World War II or US civil rights movement, makes a difference how we resolve racism as a collective.

Subjectification is perhaps a less contentious and more accurate way to name what I am calling the ‘soul’. It is how we can be in the world but not of it. It is the development of self that allows us to participate in the work and toil of life but at the same time, be removed enough to regulate our desires and our need to belong. This is what I am really interested in and how it works in schooling.

When education works

When education works, we leave school as people who can disagree agreeably. We have successfully transitioned from the properly narcissistic world of an infant to that of the grown up, able to rationalise desire and impulses out of concern for a common good. Schools do this when they engage young people’s critical and creative thinking. It is not about making them like us but helping to value themselves, as both distinct and as part of something bigger.

German-American philosopher and political theorist, Hannah Arendt, another great post war thinker, wrote:

“Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it, and by the same token save it from that ruin which except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and the young, would be inevitable. And education, too, is where we decide whether we love our children enough not to expel them from our world and leave them to their own devices, nor to strike from their hands their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us, but to prepare them in advance for the task of renewing a common world.”

Critical and creative thinking

I believe when Arendt says, ‘their chance of undertaking something new, something unforeseen by us’ she is talking about that moment in the classroom when we see the student’s soul. The ‘unforeseeable’ happens when students are thinking creatively and critically. It is tangled into what is broadly referred to in the Australian curriculum as ‘general capabilities’.

Most importantly, it requires teachers to be highly adaptive in their teaching. In my experience it is the best part of being a teacher because it is always a transmission of the whole person, not just the mind. It is a very satisfying and inclusive experience, not just available for ‘talented’ students, because there is no right answer, but for every child. Within many classrooms the tyranny of success, or when every answer is ‘right’ dulls learning like a symphony orchestra playing with the sound turned down.

How mass online learning has made us think about our teaching practices

If teachers’ capacity to notice the ‘feeling’ changes in students as they learn is altered, how does this change their capacity to adapt and respond in a way that takes critical and creative thinking forward? Our time where online learning was the only way to learn for many students has made us think about this. It has especially made us think about how we might adapt our teaching practice to new challenges.

Teacher adaptive practice, how teachers follow the student, not the script,  is thought to improve student learning and early evidence suggests it is a key disposition in engaging students in critical and creative thinking. It means changing how we ‘thought we were going to teach’ when the unforeseen, a student’s curiosity and new ideas, emerges.

It is exactly our response to this magic moment that I believe teaches a child if their soul matters and how what matters to them needs to find its place in what matters to others. So what can we learn from that moment, when the way we were together, teacher and students, changed with online learning?

If you think of a hinge and how it swings open and closes a door, the COVID 19 crisis and the rapid large scale experience with online teaching has swung open a whole conversation about proximity, teacher adaptability and teaching the whole child. We can use these experiences like counter intuitive game theory (where two losing games results into a winning game); COVID and social distancing could generate a win for teaching.

Learning something new and important from the experience

The online learning experience is a particular sort of sensory experience and I am interested in knowing more about what teachers can tell us through these experiences. The realisation when I saw the comments in the chat function on that webinar reassured me I was not alone in this thinking. Maybe there was another teacher at the webinar who, sitting like me in a tracksuit at the kitchen table, saw my comment and thought, ‘I know exactly what she means’.

This is not about making a choice or deciding what is best between online and face to face teaching. It is about learning something new and important, such as the teaching for the soul, when things fall apart.

Even now that we have ‘returned’ to the classroom, the experience of having to move so quickly to remote learning will have changed teachers’ understanding what it means to be together. If we learn from this extraordinary experience we may find new, more generous, ways to entreat young people to vita activa or live life as ‘activists’. This experience is an opportunity to learn and more explicitly identify the teaching and learning interplay that helps students build and value their critical and creative capacity and, ultimately, as Arendt says face the ever more urgent ‘task of renewing a common world’.

Penny Vlies is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney studying the intersection of curriculum policy, general capabilities and teaching. Her work with schools involves designing learning that is built by and for teachers to embed critical and creative thinking into classroom practice. She is an Academic Tutor with the University working with students in the Service Learning in Indigenous Communities course. Penny is an award winning secondary school teacher who sees education ‘to be, not to have’. She can be contacted for any questions or further discussion at penny.vlies@syd.edu.au. Penny is on Twitter @pvlies.

Students say uni online learning is mostly ‘busy work’. Here’s what will really engage them

To combat high failure and student drop-out rates, universities have developed strategies to monitor online student engagement through measurable activities. We explored if and how these monitoring activities accurately measure online engagement.

Perhaps our most surprising finding was that the teacher-education students in our study did not see their set online tasks as being valuable to their learning. The students complained about being given ‘busy work’ – tasks given to them that appeared to be aimed at just keeping them busy or monitoring simple engagement through a metrics-based tool.

The students reported a number of other activities that did prompt their engagement in learning, but many of these would not be picked up by the usual ways of measuring engagement.

We believe our study and its findings would be particularly useful to teachers at the moment, in any sector, who are creating online learning activities for their students.

Our study

Our research study involved interviewing nine online third-year students (8 female, 1 male) from a four-year teacher-education degree at a regional university in Australia. Each student had been reported as being ‘highly engaged’ by their course coordinator. With their consent, they participated in fortnightly interviews throughout a 13-week semester. The aim was to find out more about what engagement meant for them, how they enacted engagement in the online space, both visibly and invisibly, and the factors that influenced their degree of engagement at different points in time. Interviews were held in the week prior to the start of semester, fortnightly during the semester and within two to three weeks of the semester’s end – eight interviews with each student in all. 

We described a ‘highly engaged’ student as someone who consistently and reliably participated in discussion boards or other learning activities, collaborated with other online students, and engaged with the lectures/readings. Reflecting the typical online student profile in general, all were mature-age students, in paid employment family/caring responsibilities.

Simplistic measures perceived by students as not useful to learning

From analysis of the interview data, we found that most students were critical of practices that were clearly designed to measure engagement in simplistic ways. These included

  • being required to make a specific number of posts a week
  • give feedback to a certain number of other students
  • do ungraded online activities such as quizzes that did not add to learning.

While these conscientious participants diligently met these requirements, seven of the nine reported that such mandated posts and activities did not encourage true engagement and deep learning. They were described as being ‘a means to an end’, and ‘busy work’ designed simply to ‘try to make you fill the expected ten hours of study per week.’ The mandating of posts to prompt engagement was described as ‘ridiculous’ and as taking ‘a huge amount of time’, which they believed could have been spent differently to promote deeper learning.

Students experienced profound disappointment and an even greater sense of having wasted their time when their diligently crafted, mandatory posts, received no commentary or replies from either teacher or other students. In addition, such mandatory posting tended to make the online learning platform clogged and overwhelmed with discussion threads that lacked coherence and structure.

Activities reported as being valuable to learning

There were a number of other ways these students reported as engaging them in their studies, which unfortunately, would not be captured by standard systems of measuring online engagement. These included

  • engaging in learning with their peers on platforms other than that offered by the university, such as Facebook, Messenger or other social media platforms where they could meet other students and study
  • following suggestions by lecturers or other students to do additional, relevant activities such as listen to TED talks, watch a YouTube video, or check out a curriculum resource
  • learning activities that prompted their creativity and ultimately contributed to their final assessment task
  • lecturers who used a diversity of approaches to learning in the online space  
  • well-designed, engaging assessment tasks

This study has unearthed some of the complexities that emerge when online engagement is measured in mechanistic ways. It also unveils alternative measures of engagement that might be more meaningful for promoting student learning. As such, this research contributes to a broader conversation about measuring engagement in the online space and can frame the direction for future research, practices, and policy on these matters.

Perhaps there is another way of understanding student engagement, that is not tied up with metrics and monitoring. Engagement for online university students happens in many ways, both visible and more hidden. What if we changed our way of thinking about what engagement is? What if we listened to what students have to say about their own engagement?

We invite educators to move away from having fixed ideas about where and how and when online students should be engaging, and offer a critique of the superficial, descriptive, tick-the-box exercises that are usually designed to monitor engagement by computer rather than through human interaction. We hope educators will take this opportunity, where so many of us are moving to online teaching, to explore other ways of understanding student engagement in the online space.

For those who want more Beyond busy work: rethinking the measurement of online student engagement

Cathy Stone, DSW (Research), is a Conjoint Associate Professor in Social Work at the University of Newcastle. Cathy  is an Adjunct Fellow with the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, where she undertook research into improving outcomes in online learning as an inaugural 2016 Equity Fellow. Cathy is currently an Independent Consultant and Researcher on the support, engagement and success of diverse student cohorts in higher education. She can be contacted for any questions or further discussion at cathy.stone@newcastle.edu.au Cathy is on Twitter @copacathy

Naomi Milthorpe is Senior Lecturer in English in the School of Humanities at the University of Tasmania. Her research interests centre on modernist, interwar and mid-century British literary culture. Naomi is the author of Evelyn Waugh’s Satire: Texts and Contexts (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2016) and the editor of The Poetics and Politics of Gardening in Hard Times (Lexington, 2019). Naomi is on Twitter  @drmilthorpe

Dr. Janet Dyment is the Director of the School of Education at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada.  Prior to her move to Acadia, she spent 20 years at the University of Tasmania in the Faculty of Education.  Janet’s research interests include online teacher education, student engagement, environmental education and education for sustainability.  With the recent COVID pandemic, Janet is leading her new teacher education team to reimagine on-campus offerings as remote delivery options and encouraging her staff to ensure student engagement remains high in these new modes of deliveries.

Online schooling and distance ed? Don’t be afraid, we’ve been doing and improving it for 100 years

Amid all the concerns about closing schools and setting up online learning In Australia it is important to note that Australia is actually a world leader in school distance education. Indeed, distance learning is not only achievable for Australian students, but very normal for many students around our large island continent. In rural and remote regions of Australia, students have been learning ‘by distance’ since the inception of ‘school of the air’ in Alice Springs over 100 years ago.

We want to tell you about distance learning in Australia and how our nation’s experiences and development of distance learning can help as we move into closing our schools. We know parents are worried that their children will be disadvantaged, particularly those in the final years of schooling. Many parents worry that they won’t be able to support their children’s learning at home.  Teachers are worried about how to develop and deliver lessons online  

What is distance learning?

Distance learning in Australia usually involves students working remotely with their teacher who leads their class using a combination of ‘synchronous’ and ‘asynchronous’ learning. Synchronous learning is where children are learning in real time, often with other students who join in from their remote locations, and asynchronous learning is where learning is online but without real time interaction. While distance education originally involved communication via post and two-way radio, technological advancement now sees this occurring through more advanced forms of technological communication using laptops or computers, video conferencing and so on.  This technology allows students to interact face-to-face with their teachers and with other students both in their remote school and elsewhere.

At present distance education schools are typically delivered to students who cannot attend the local school. This is usually because students are deemed to live too far away from a school to reasonably attend, have chronic illnesses, are travelling, or to make available subjects a school can’t offer due to lower numbers wanting to take them, for instance languages. School authorities expect these students to work in almost the same manner as children in a face-to-face school do, with set hours for schooling and a designated learning space.  In the early years of schooling, teachers provide lessons that are scripted almost word for word for supervisors to implement with their students, and these are usually given to the supervisors weeks in advance.

The many ways distance learning is used in schools across Australia

Today most states and territories in Australia offer distance education programs. For example in NSW, the Access program offers a shared curriculum for senior secondary students across five clusters of isolated schools across the state. Small cohorts of students interact with each other and their teacher through videoconferencing and collaborative technologies. It has been operating since about 1990.

Within the Access program the Riverina and Northern Borders Access programs began in 1990 and in more remote areas the ‘Wilvandee’ Access program – linking Wilcannia, Ivanhoe and Menindee (initially) began in 1994.  Schools within a vicinity share a teacher in specialist subjects, with the specialist teacher physically situated at one of the network schools. In this way schools are able to provide a breadth of curriculum access in the senior secondary years that would otherwise not be possible due to student and staff numbers.

Schools co-timetable to ensure students have half their lessons as live video conference lessons. The other half comprises of structured learning activities using a learning management system, such as Moodle or the newer Microsoft schools products. Students in Access programs attend their local community school for these lessons, even though they may in practice have no ‘traditional’ lessons at their school.

Also in NSW, in 2015 the Aurora College was established as a virtual selective high school to ensure rural and isolated students in NSW could access selective schooling (where enrolment is based on academic merit) regardless of location.  Here students from all across the state, who have passed the selective schools test, learn in a virtual environment organized in a similar manner to the Access program. The continued success of Aurora College shows that online learning in Australia can extend academically gifted students as well as provide the usual curriculum.

While we have used examples from NSW, similar programs exist around Australia in other states and territories. For instance in large parts of Western Australia education is provided through distance education and school of the air.

It is also important to note that while online learning is an important part of distance education, it is not the only way students undertake lessons. Students also undertake lessons ‘offline’ using learning materials provided by the teachers to guide them.

What can schools and teachers learn from our distance education experience?

We have reviewed research literature about the use of technology to connect students to schooling and found there are five main types of relationships involved. Distance education teachers are working with these relationships, and we think they would be crucial to developing successful online or distance education programs.

  • Learner to teacher relationship

This involves how the learner and teacher are connected.  What is the teacher-student relationship? What are the interpersonal experiences when the student is involved in face to face learning? Is the child engaged and motivated, connected?

  • Learner to learner (peer) relationships 

How are peers connected? How is peer learning encouraged and supported? Is it moderated?

  • Learner’s relationship to the content

How do we link students to the content? Can they work with it outside face to face teaching? What type of content should be used?  How does the content support knowledge building? What is the role of the learner?  

  • Learner to system relationship

Using the right tools to engage the student with the content. How do learners interact with the technology? Is the navigation and pace of learning working? Structured v unstructured.  

  • Vicarious interaction or social presence

What is the social presence of the child? Are they ‘being present’, feeling they belong, able to feel the support and presence of other children in the group from their remote access?  Are they experiencing that ‘being at school’ sense?

While all of this might sound daunting to some, many isolated parents, with Distance Education provision, support  their children to learn literacy and numeracy from kindergarten.  Some parents describe this type of learning as more effective and connected to their students’ needs and interests, because of the flexibility it allows.

Distance learning is also not the panacea. There are many families, particularly in remote and other poorer communities, who don’t have access to the necessary technology or internet service. Others don’t have the experience or prior learning to support their children in online learning.  This is one reason why programs like the NSW Access program that run through schools are valuable and shouldn’t be replaced by distance learning as the only option.

The future of schooling

Overall, these schools remind us that distance learning is possible, as long as we see that ‘school’ doesn’t have to mean numbers of children attending one setting together. In fact there are many advantages of this learning mode. For example, in the Access networks teachers know their students and contexts, which makes for richer learning when thinking back to basic education theory.  Students in distance education or Schools of the Air have access to a rich learning environment in their day to day lives and backyards.

Importantly, having to do school online isn’t so much a revolution or cause for concern, it’s the everyday normal for thousands of children.  The reaction to the closing schools brings into sharp focus the assumption that schooling is face-to-face when it is not for so many students in Australia. More so, it reminds us that rather than rural education constantly being framed as ‘disadvantaged’ it should in fact now be showcased as ‘world leading’.

This provides an opportunity to highlight a key equity issue beneath assumptions. Online learning can be as good as ‘real school’. It is for those communities, students and teachers for whom it is already their everyday reality.

Philip Roberts is an Associate Professor (Curriculum Inquiry / Rural Education) at the University of Canberra and Research Leader of the Rural Education and Communities Research Group and ARC DECRA fellow at the University of Canberra, where he convenes units across the fields of Educational Sociology and Curriculum Inquiry. His major ongoing research focuses on place, the sustainability of rural communities, and the interests of the least powerful in our society. Philip’s work is situated within rural sociology, the sociology of knowledge, educational sociology and social justice and is informed by the spatial turn in social theory and sustainability.  He leads the  University of Canberra’s Rural Education & Communities Research Group. 

Natalie Downes is a research assistant  in the Rural Education & Communities Research Group in the Faculty of Education, University of Canberra. Her research interests include rural distance education, rural-regional sustainability and the ethical working impact of working with rural people and communities. Natalie also works with the University of Canberra Widening Participation unit assisting with program evaluation and reporting and has previously worked as a Research Officer at the university. She has been an executive member of the Society of the Provision of Education in Rural Australia and editor of the Board of the International Journal of Rural Education. She has worked on projects with the Rural Education Research Student’ Network which focuses on supporting students, early career researchers and community members interested in rural education.

We would like to acknowledge the knowledge and experiences shared with us by teachers and parents for whom this mode of learning is the day to day norm

For teachers wanting a little light moment in all of this. Here is Michael Bruening An associate professor of history and political science at Missouri University of Science and Technology, singing his   ‘I will survive coronavirus version‘.

Ten ways to improve online learning for students

Online learning has become a well-recognised part of the broader landscape of higher education. It is also proving to have a critical place in widening access and equity within this landscape. Increasing numbers of students from backgrounds historically under-represented at university are taking the opportunity to study online, particularly through open-entry and alternative pathways, with many of these learners being the first in their family or community to undertake university studies.

However, retention in online undergraduate studies is considerably lower than in face-to-face programs. An Australian Government Department of Education and Training report in 2017 said only 46.4% of fully external, domestic online undergraduate students completed their studies from 2005 to 2014 compared with a completion rate for internal, on-campus students, of 76.6%. Similarly, the recent Australian Higher Education Standards Panel (HESP) Discussion Paper shows that external, online students are 2.5 times more likely than on-campus students to leave university without a qualification.

So I believe it is crucial to look closely at what is happening and to do something about it. My research is focused on examining what is needed to engage and support diverse cohorts of students to stay and succeed in online education.

My role as Equity Fellow

During 2015 the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) at Curtin University called for applications for three inaugural Equity Fellows to be appointed in 2016, with a further three to be appointed for 2017. Applicants needed to propose a research project aimed at improving student equity in higher education. I was very fortunate in being selected as one of these three Equity Fellows for 2016. For my research project, which was completed at the end of March 2017, I investigated teaching and pedagogy practices, institutional supports and retention strategies within online undergraduate learning; the overall objective being to develop a set of national guidelines to provide sector leadership on evidence-based ways to improve the access, success and retention of students in online undergraduate education.

Seven key findings

I interviewed 151 participants involved in online learning – academic, professional and management staff at 15 Australian universities and at the Open University UK. I sought the combined wisdom of practitioners in online learning; asking them about the interventions/strategies for online students (in teaching and/or support) that they (or others in their university) were using, which they thought might be having a positive impact on access, retention and/or academic success.

I asked them whether any of their interventions/strategies were being measured or evaluated, and if so, in what ways, and did they know of any results? I also asked them what else they thought was important for institutions to do to help their online students stay and succeed?

From these 151 interviews, seven key findings emerged:

  1. A strategic whole-of-institution approach is required; one that recognises online education as ‘core business’. This approach needs to include an institution-wide understanding of the nature and diversity of the online student cohort as well as the development and implementation of quality standards for online education, which undergo continuous quality improvement.
  2. Early intervention with students to connect, prepare and engage is essential; particularly in terms of providing realistic expectations and encourage and facilitating academic preparation.
  3. “Teacher-presence’ plays a vital role in building a sense of belonging to the learning community and in improving student retention; however the time-consuming nature of developing and maintaining a strong sense of ‘teacher-presence’ is not always recognised in existing workload models.
  4. Content, curriculum and delivery need to be designed specifically for online learning; they need to be engaging, interactive, supportive and designed to strengthen interaction amongst students.
  5. Regular and structured contact between the institution and the student is important in providing connection and direction along the student journey. This includes proactively reaching out to students at particular points along their journey, and is best achieved through the development of an institutional framework of interventions.
  6. Learning analytics play an important role in informing appropriate and effective student interventions, including through predictive modelling and personalising the learning experience.
  7. Collaboration across the institution is required to integrate and embed support; delivering it to students at point of need. When academic and professional staff cross traditional boundaries to work more closely together, a more holistic student experience can be delivered, including embedding support within curriculum.

Voices of online students and the importance of connecting

I compared these findings with the findings of two previous research projects that I was involved with in 2015 and 2016, where online students were interviewed about their experiences of online study. I found remarkable congruence between the perceptions of those students, and the perceptions of the staff interviewed for this research project, about what is most important in creating an engaging and supportive learning environment for online students.

For example, students in these previous studies talked about their need “for inductions and orientations on how to use stuff”; and how difficult it can be to understand what’s required when told “you all need to redo your referencing for the next assessment, which was another essay; they gave us no tutorial or anything”.

The students also knew that “what works in person is not the same as online”. They stressed the need for a “relationship with people” and having staff who “connect with us students”. This need for connection was expressed in many ways, such as: “it’s nice to hear another human being’s voice”; or, when contact and connection was not forthcoming, they spoke about “the lack of interaction” and being “in isolation, teaching myself”, leading to a belief that “universities don’t really care about or engage with online students very much”.

National Guidelines for improving student outcomes in online learning

 The seven findings from my research have informed the development of a set of 10 National Guidelines for Improving Student Outcomes in Online Learning, designed to inform institutions about ways to improve student outcomes primarily in undergraduate online education, where there tends to be a considerable diversity of the student cohort; this includes students from backgrounds historically underrepresented at university, as well as those with little prior experience of academic study and/or online study. However, these guidelines are likely to be at least in part transferable to other online post-secondary education settings particularly where there is a similar diversity of student cohort.

  1. Know who the students are – at an institutional level, understand the cohort, its diversity and needs
  2. Develop, implement and regularly review institution-wide quality standards for delivery of online education – ensuring that online education is ‘core business’ and not an ‘add-on’
  3. Intervene early to address student expectations, build skills and engagement
  4. Explicitly value and support the vital role of ‘teacher-presence’ – through training, mentoring, resources, workload and payment
  5. Design for online – adopting an ‘online first’ approach to curriculum, content and delivery design
  6. Engage and support through content and delivery – building an interactive and inclusive learning environment
  7. Build collaboration and teamwork across faculties, services and divisions, to offer holistic, integrated and embedded student support
  8. Contact and communicate throughout the student journey – developing a comprehensive intervention strategy, with academic and professional staff working together
  9. Use learning analytics to target and personalise student interventions – building a learning analytics strategy that underpins student engagement and support
  10. Demonstrate the importance of online education through appropriate institutional resourcing – treating online education as core business, budgeting for it appropriately, and understanding that it is not a money-saving option

Each of the above guidelines is discussed in more depth in the full report, with suggestions on how each guideline can be translated into action. For example, some of the possible actions for Explicitly value and support the vital role of ‘teacher-presence’ (Guideline 4) include institutions’ ensuring that the role of teacher-presence is recognised and valued within institutional quality standards for online education. Within these standards, online teachers would receive appropriate training, support and resourcing, through the allocation of sufficient teaching time, workload allocation and appropriate technology. Through such measures, online teachers would be in a stronger position to provide an interactive, connected learning experience for online students.

For more detail please go to the full report Opportunity Through Online Learning

 

Cathy Stone, DSW (Research), is a Conjoint Associate Professor in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle. Cathy was an inaugural Equity Fellow during 2016 with the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, where she is currently a 2017 Visiting Research Fellow. Much of her research and publications focus on the experiences of mature-age, first-in-family and online students. Cathy is currently an Independent Consultant and Researcher on the support, engagement and success of diverse student cohorts in higher education, and is an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker with the Australian Association of Social Workers.Cathy can be contacted for any questions or further discussion at cathy.stone@newcastle.edu.au

 

Cathy is one of the hundreds of educational researchers presenting their research at the 2017 AARE Conference in Canberra all this week.

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