EDTL Approach: Consider Content & Activities
Resources to ensure the smooth transition of your teaching resources and activities to online
‘Consider Content & Activities’ is a broad theme – the content & activities of many existing learning experiences amount to a significant portion of that entire experience.
This theme prompts thoughtful and careful consideration in the context of planning for the development of remote digital teaching and learning experiences for students in the new academic year and beyond. It is also worth noting that much of what you need may already be at your disposal.
These resources aim to provide some guidance to help you with your considerations for content & activities.
1. Review learning outcomes
Reviewing your learning outcomes will support you to make decisions around your content and activities for a move to online/blended delivery. Engaging with learning outcomes will also ensure that you maintain constructive alignment between learning outcomes, learning activities and content, and your assessment. We suggest considering three key questions as you review
the learning outcomes:
- Do the learning outcomes need to be adjusted for online/blended
- Do you need to create new learning activities/content to support the
learning outcomes for online/blended delivery?
- Do you need to consider alternative assessments to measure the
learning outcomes in an online/blended delivery context?
The following resources will support you to review your learning outcomes for online/blended learning delivery.
Deciding What to Change (from Designing Digitally by Durham University) outlines some key points to consider when reviewing learning outcomes for online/blended delivery.
Informed by the ABC Learning Design Framework, the ABC to VLE+ App Wheel provides online support and guidance on a range of tools that you may wish to employ in their teaching of blended/online modules. The Wheel focuses on the Moodle platform but the many of the suggested tools are available in all VLE platforms.
2. Identify existing content that is reusable
With minor adaptation to get things ready for the online or blended environment, you may find that you have much of what you need already – slides, links to books, journal articles and readings, audio and video resources, etc. Think about the existing content that you have to hand that could be reused and easily adapted to your remote teaching context – for example
- break existing slide decks designed originally for longer lectures into smaller, more digestible chunks for students
- add a voiceover narration to slide decks or existing content
- annotate readings and documents with your own comments and share these with your students
You might also draw inspiration from the many educational resources freely available and openly licensed on the internet for reuse – known as Open Educational Resources (OERs). There are some considerations when sourcing and reusing this content such as the quality of the OER, suitability for your teaching context and the conditions of use applied by the OER creator. However, finding good quality, appropriately licensed OER may significantly reduce your time spent developing a resource from scratch.
The following resources will help you to source OERs which you might consider reusing or adapting, or simply to draw some inspiration from.
The Creative Commons Open Education program provides a useful webpage that collates a number of online locations and methods to find OERs for education.The page offers a comprehensive list for educators including links to banks of reusable elements such as images and videos, module components and even complete courses.
The University of Pittsburgh Library provides a comprehensive dashboard of OER sources and repositories in its ‘Big List of Resources’. You can search for OER guides by subject area, complete courses, open access books, multimedia, and within large repositories.
3. Balance asynchronous and synchronous activities
Your content and activities should balance asynchronous and synchronous activities, with a preference towards asynchronous learning opportunities. Providing students with content and activities that they can work through when most convenient, with less pressure to join live sessions that require bandwidth and immediacy, makes for a more inclusive and flexible learning environment. Students can complete reading, watch videos, and complete activities on their own, and enjoy meaningful synchronous sessions such as tutorials or office hours.
Daniel Stanford’s ‘Bandwidth Immediacy Matrix’ was published along with his blog post in March as a response to moving online. In his matrix, he identifies four zones that, if balanced well, can make online courses more flexible and accessible.
Within their lengthier guide to Remote Teaching, Flynn and Kerr from eCampus Ontario have created easily remixable ‘Quick Start Overview’ graphics to support you to structure your module, and address the balance of synchronous and asynchronous activities.
4. How will students engage with content & activities
One good way to understand how students will engage with content and activities is by engaging as a student in an online learning module/course.
Putting yourself in the shoes of your students is a great way to gain insight into how best to support engagement with content and activities in a remote online or blended learning environment. The resources listed beneath our EDTL Approach: Consider your Student’s theme may also be useful.
Designing Digitally is a comprehensive online lesson developed by Durham University Centre for Academic Development. It aims to support anyone exploring the potential of using digital to design and enhance their module. It suggests practical approaches to apply and includes a “Top 10 Quick Wins” section which corresponds to three topics, including one on ‘Content and learning activities’.
5. Make sure content is accessible
Universal Design for Learning is a set of principles to guide curriculum design and provides a framework to improve and optimise teaching and learning by removing barriers in the environment. (CAST Symposium: UDL for Social Justice, 2019).
The Teaching Enhancement Unit at DCU has developed a UDL toolkit for Moodle to support staff in applying UDL principles in designing content and activities for online/blended learning delivery. While this toolkit focuses on the Moodle platform, the elements of the toolkit such as the progression check lists and the template design can be used to support work in other VLE platforms.
Bear in mind that for online/blended delivery, you may have the added challenge of student digital access issues. One approach which can address this challenge is using a blend of synchronous and asynchronous content and activities, discussed in section 3 above.
In addition to applying UDL principles, many commonly available tools such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Google docs have inbuilt accessibility tools/guidelines which will support you in developing content and activities that will be accessible to all.
6. Use and update VLE templates to provide consistent structure
The use of consistent, simple and easily navigable templates within the VLE will help students to easily participate in the course. Students should easily be able to access contact information, assessments, and the course outline. Content and activities for each week or topic shouldn’t be too many clicks away from the student, and now is a good time to conduct an audit of your courses to remove any outdated materials, broken links, and simplify its structure. Students should be able to engage with the course intuitively.
Flower Darby provides a detailed, practical overview for teaching online in this post, in particular in her advice on organising course content. She focuses on the student experience, and the disengagement and confusion that could arise within a disorganised course.
Flower Darby’s ‘How to be a Better Online Teacher’: https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/advice-online-teaching
DCU’s Teaching Enhancement Unit has designed a course template for Moodle as part of the UDL toolkit. This template was designed with reference to Universal Design for Learning principles and supports staff to provide consistency across the Moodle site and to incorporate UDL best practice into their module page design.
DCU UDL module template: http://dcuh5p.com/udl-moodle-template/
In this online lesson produced by CELT at NUI Galway, advice is offered on keeping courses ‘clear, simple, and coherent’.
CELT NUI Galway ‘Pivot and Shift’ lesson: https://www.allaboardhe.ie/OER/pivot/shift/
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