Should we leave the classroom behind?

The pandemic has driven a great leap forward in digital learning. Is there any point in looking back?

(The Guardian) – Academics who think about education recognise that not all the enforced changes have been good. Covid highlighted how critical the social aspect of learning is, and that something extra happens when students and their teacher share a physical space. The experiment also played out differently in schools and universities, in part because the benefits of “co-present” learning may vary by age. The tension now is between those who see the pandemic as an opportunity to overhaul education and those who are impatient to return to “normal”.

“This is a time for schools and systems to reimagine education without schooling or classrooms,” says Professor Yong Zhao of the School of Education at the University of Kansas. Dr Jim Watterston of the Melbourne Graduate School of Education in Australia thinks the traditional classroom is alive and well, on the other hand, but that “education needs to be more adventurous and captivating” – and, above all, more flexible.

Earlier this year, Zhao and Watterston co-authored a paper in which they identified three major changes that should happen in education post-lockdown. The first concerns the content, which should emphasise such things as creativity, critical thinking and entrepreneurship, rather than collecting and storing information. “For humans to thrive in the age of smart machines, it is essential that they do not compete with machines,” they wrote. “Instead, they need to be more human.”

The second is that students should have more control over their learning, with the teacher’s role shifting from instructor to curator of learning resources, counsellor and motivator. This is where so-called “active learning” comes in, with a growing body of research suggesting that comprehension and memory are better when students learn in a hands-on way – through discussion and interactive technologies, for example. It’s also where the concept of “productive failure” applies. Professor Manu Kapur of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich argues that students learn better from their own or others’ failed attempts to solve a problem, before or even instead of being told how to solve it.

Zhao and Watterston’s third proposal is that the where of learning should change – “from the classroom to the world”. With lockdown all learning went online, but it tended to stick to pre-existing timetables, and it was this temporal rigidity that caused distress and disengagement in some students, they claim.

With digital tools it is no longer necessary for students to learn at the same time as each other. What’s needed, they say, is a mix of online and face-to-face learning – so-called blended learning or the flipped classroom, where students read or watch lectures in their own time, beyond the school walls, and solve problems in the presence of their teacher and peers.

That decoupling of learning time and school time means that the former can expand – something that is going to be particularly important for the recovery from Covid, says Laurillard. It comes as no surprise to her that students speed up their lectures, or that lecturers have begun dividing up their presentations into five- and 10-minute video segments, or that all this was happening even before the pandemic. “There’s a lot of redundancy in a 50-minute lecture,” she says.

But can you really acquire knowledge properly at speed? Woody Allen once joked about a speed reading course where he learned to read down the middle of the page and completed War and Peace in 20 minutes. “It’s about Russia,” was his summary. At the University of Waterloo in Canada, cognitive psychologist Professor Evan Risko has been testing people’s comprehension after speed-watching video lectures. Though it depends on the nature of the material, the student’s prior knowledge and the lecturer’s delivery style, his research indicates that an acceleration of up to 1.7 times has little negative impact and, of course, saves time.

These are, you might say, first world preoccupations. What of those who don’t have the luxury of digital tools? The digital divide is not a new problem, Laurillard says, but nor should it put a brake on change, “because the digital world moves faster in providing access than the physical one”. She points to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4, which is to provide quality education for all by 2030. The only way this will happen, she says, is if teachers in disadvantaged areas receive tools and materials digitally – perhaps via massive open online courses – and then pass them on to their students in the traditional way.

If even the digital divide won’t hold back the coming revolution, it seems unlikely that the classroom will ever look the same again. As Laurillard puts it: “It took a global pandemic to drive home what we’ve been saying for 30 years.”

Learn how to make your online training more effective and more engaging than face-to-face learning

Our signature training in Online Course Delivery is designed for teachers and trainers in any field who wish to develop their career in online education. It covers the essentials of moderating a virtual learning environment (VLE), content design, how to effectively balance self-access content with live sessions, the facilitation of learner-centred knowledge construction, and assessment.

If you think ‘teaching online’ just means live lessons in a virtual classroom, then get ready to think again!

This is an interactive group course, which requires active participation and collaborative work. While some pedagogical theory is covered, it is largely practical and experiential. You will come to understand the needs of online learners by being an online learner yourself. The training is tutor-facilitated, and you will have daily contact and feedback.

Take your online training delivery to a higher dimension

”I enjoyed Online Course Delivery immensely. The training provider has designed a detailed course that gives fantastic value for money, incorporating both individual and group forms of communication and tasks. The course has given me the knowledge and tools to further my career teaching online. I can highly recommend Online Course Delivery.” – Matt in Brazil

Skills you will learn
  • Working with virtual learning environments (i.e. Moodle)
  • Encouraging participation in online courses
  • Dealing with learner issues
  • How eLearning can be better than face-to-face training
  • How to effectively balance synchronous and asynchronous tasks
  • The importance of socialisation in online education
  • Engaging and motivating online learners
  • Creating tasks for different learner types
  • Essential elements of multimedia design
  • How to create powerful presentations for live online sessions
  • The keys to teaching in a virtual classroom
  • How to productively moderate online forum discussions
  • Creating and sourcing content for asynchronous courses
  • The psychology of online learning
  • The crucial components of instructional design
  • Effective assessment in the online world

The final assessment is a group project in which you will be developing a sample unit for an asynchronous course. Our hope is that beyond the course, you will continue to develop your courseware and deliver it to your own learners.

Course length, dates & times

This 35-hour course is delivered over 5 weeks, therefore 7 hours each week.

There will be a weekly 1-hour live session, the timing of which will be negotiated per the availability of the group.

Apart from the live session, much of the interaction takes place in online forums. Participants can log in and work through each unit at any time during the week.

A new run of the course begins every 6 weeks. CLICK HERE for dates and fees.

Course Syllabus
  1. Access & Climate Setting
    We’ll begin our journey by exploring our virtual learning environment (VLE), finding our way around some of the course resources, and in getting to know each other. As a virtual learning community, we will be working very closely together throughout the course. We’ll start thinking about how to effectively moderate online courses, and will also consider the advantages of eLearning over face-to-face training.

  2. Online Socialisation
    Unit 2 is based on the concept of learning being a social process and looks at how a tutor can encourage interaction in a learner-centred online environment. We’ll also think about learner types and how to cater for these. We will learn how to develop a lively social learning environment, consider some important tutor skills, and try out a variety of Moodle activities.

  3. Information Exchange
    Online learning environments allow a multitude of ways to present multimedia content. In this unit, we’ll cover essential principles of multimedia learning, and experiment with a range of tools and online resources. This is a very practical unit!

  4. Knowledge Construction
    In Unit 4 we’ll look at how the dynamics of our initial stages of course design result in the main aim of socialisation: the establishment of a true online learning community. We’ll explore some important theory at the heart of knowledge construction, try out some more digital learning activities, and begin work on a collaborative project.

  5. Development
    In this final unit of our voyage we’ll look at how to bring a course to an end. We’ll consider assessment in the online context, and think about how to ensure that our learners leave our courses with the confidence to continue their learning autonomously. A large amount of this week is scheduled to allow everyone time to complete the collaborative project, which is used for summative assessment. The final assessment is a group project in which you will be developing a sample unit for an asynchronous course. Our hope is that beyond the course, you will continue to develop your courseware and deliver it to your own learners.

“This has been an inspirational, amazing, fun and challenging course, one for which I’m very grateful for. Being online felt like being at home. Thank you so much for this opportunity.” – Sissy in South Africa

Private Group Bookings

This training course is also available to private groups and can be tailored for specific organisations.
Our prices for private group bookings are:

  • 5 – 10 participants £355
  • 11 – 20 participants £710

Please contact info@mrbee.uk to discuss your requirements.

Careers

By the end of this course, you will be fully-versed in designing and delivering highly-effective online courses in virtual learning environments (i.e. Moodle). This will allow you to start delivering your own independent online training.

Supporting independent practitioners is our main aim. Our ideal is that participants will go on to create their very own virtual learning environments and to launch their very own online school / training platform.

Graduates of our training automatically become MisterBee Associates.

MisterBee Associates gain access to The Beehive – a free community resource, established to support independent online practitioners. Our aim is to provide resources and encouragement to help our members establish themselves as independent training providers.

In addition, we aim to provide teaching / training work through our sister project, ASEAN Business English, and through other projects as they arise

We also offer support in setting up your very own online school. ASEAN Business English was established to help you get started, but our main goal is for you to be successful as an independent practitioner.

“I felt so inspired by this course, which I learned so much from. It gave me a better perception of online teaching.” – Margo in South Africa


Register Now …