Content Delivery or Learning Experiences

Great content delivery is an adequate form of education, but is there more? Do you have experiences of sports coaching or studying where a teacher just gave you raw information and then left you to your own devices? Do you have experiences of teachers leading you through a process of reflecting on information and applying it to your own situation?

I believe that great content should always be one part of our educational environment. It is a very important part, but just one part. How we structure and package our delivery will make the difference between whether we have great content, or great experiences of learning.

Here is a silly little example. Pretend that the picture is a video lecture, presentation or reading that you think has very good information.

Great content

Option 1: Great content

What if we were to use this example as part of an intentionally created learning experience? We could make an attempt to draw a student in, through their own past experiences, and then use these a tool to help them to understand. We could provide space for the student to reflect appropriately on the content, and to apply it to their own lives. We could also provide a space for students to share in the experience of the entire class by posting responses to, and reflections on, the great content.

Option 2: Great content as part of a learning experience

Option 2: Great content as part of a learning experience

Trying to set up a deeper educational experience will take some extra time and thought, but this gives a space for students to think more deeply about what they are learning.


Advantages of this type of learning experiences:

  1. Students get to apply information immediately.
  2. Students are able to learn from other students in the class by seeing their comments.
  3. Seeing how they apply it to their own lives also gives you immediate feedback on whether or not they are actually learning from the materials.
  4. Lecturers and tutors are able to model engagement with the content through their own comments.


  • Can you think of anything where you have learnt through immediate reflection and engagement? How were those learning experiences?
  • Do you see any problems with this style of learning experience?

Feel free to use the comment section that should appear below.


8 Tasks of Online Education

Online education is not easy. I know that I often don’t feel like I am doing the job that I think I should be doing for my students. Part of my trouble is that I often just don’t feel like I have enough time ┬áto do the job that I want to do for my students. But sometimes it is more about not knowing exactly what I should be doing.

Here are eight tasks that we maybe need to try and fulfill in our modules.

  1. Tour guide
    Teachers guide students through the learning experience
  2. Cheer leader
    Encourage students to keep doing what they are doing, or to get more involved in the module.
  3. Learning coach
    Teachers should give students opportunities to experience and practice skills under guidance.
  4. Individual and group mirror
    Students need feedback on how they are doing.
  5. Social butterfly
    Like a great party host, teachers need to facilitate social interactions in the online space.
  6. Big brother
    Check up on students who are not engaging with the course, or who have missed important pages.
  7. Valve control
    Control the pace at which students are able to access and engage with work.
  8. Co-learner
    Teachers should never stop learning

(For a video to perhaps hold in tension with this, see Sugata Mitra speaking on the future of education, and a pedagogy that relies in some ways on the absence of the teacher)

What would happen if we were to take these functions and put them into a marking rubric for ourselves? How would we score as online educators? Take a few moments to think about your personal style and workload in class. Maybe score yourself on a scale of 0 – 5 for the above 8 tasks. How happy are you with your self-assessment?

The value of quizzes: weekly or by-weekly

In some conversations that I have had there has been a resistance to multiple choice quizzes.

  • They do not test deep understanding
  • It is difficult to test for application
  • It is easy to cheat in an online environment

Feel free to add your own issues to the list. I must admit that I am a skeptic, and have taken shortcuts on my fare share of online multiple choice quizzes. However, looking back I can see how the well set tests achieved the results set out in the arguements for quizzes set out below.

Use quizzes to:

  1. Set the pace at which students are working
  2. Direct students to what they should be focusing on in the readings.
  3. Reinforce the learning that has been done.
  4. Provide immediate feedback.
  5. Save time for the instructor.
  6. Give students a chance to re-learn their work and improve their grade.

Quizzes can be a valuable learning tool, if teachers put the required prep work into them. There are a few things that we can do to set effective quizzes that save us time, evaluate effectively and are good learning tools.

  1. We can place a time limit on quizzes
    This will force students to do their readings before coming to the quiz.
  2. We can randomize both the order of questions and the order of answers. We can also set more questions that the test needs, and then allow Sakai to randomly choose from the pool.
  3. We are able to allow multiple attempts
    This encourages students to go back to their work to learn the answers that they didn’t get the first time, or re-read their work because they realized that they just didn’t learn it well enough the first time.
  4. Therefore, we can set 30 questions on a reading, set Sakai to randomly choose 15 questions, allow students 20 minutes to complete the quiz, and give 3 attempts. We can be almost 100% sure that students who want to improve their marks will not still get original questions on the third attempt.
  5. We can include on or two paragraph questions, slotted in between multiple choice questions to test for deeper understanding.

Online Tutorials: push through to learn great things

As I write the draft for this blog post I am struggling through a tutorial using Adobe Connect, it is coming from the USA, and quite frankly, I am surprised that I am still signed in. I have discovered that on this internet connection I can stream a YouTube video smoothly, but I can’t listen to smooth audio in this tutorial. Adobe connect is supposedly the best online tutorial software available, and for me it is not working.

At Cornerstone conducting tutorials via Google hangouts, and have really struggled with some aspects of them. At the same time, many students who are not able to come in to campus have found the tutorials to be very helpful. Some have especially appreciated the ability to watch recordings of the tutorials.

What I have learnt tonight is that even when technical things go wrong, we can still learn a lot. An engaged learner, somebody who actually wants to learn, will be able to gain important information even from the glitchiest tutorial.

We have struggled with:

  • Poor connections
  • Not being able to hear one presenters
  • Not knowing all of the technical aspects of this software.

Perhaps it is not our Institution or our software alone that are struggling so much. There is perhaps another systemic issue at play that hampers the delivery of great webinars and online tutorials in South Africa. Either way, here is a summary of some lessons learnt.

What I have discovered through this 1.5 hour struggle:

  • As I am listening to bits and pieces, and seeing bits of slides, I am getting links to valuable content and hearing snippets of good stuff.
  • It is frustrating that the audio comes and goes, but I am able to have a space to think and work while this lesson is going on in the background ever now and then.
  • Even a glitchy tutorial can be valuable, it becomes what the student makes of it.
  • Visuals communication is very important when presentation is not smooth.

Some important resources and ideas that I have found as a result of this:

Stay tuned for the next few blogs based on important lessons I learnt through this seminar that went so badly.