As an instructor, you’ve probably seen (or employed) many of the exciting — and research-based — techniques and principles you can use to engage and motivate students in the online environment. However, you have also likely come to recognize that you need to use those tools and techniques in a manner that helps your students achieve the specific learning goals and objectives you have identified for your course.
In their presentation “Aligning Objectives in Online Classes,” Cengage Learning’s TeamUP Faculty Programs provide guiding principles for creating online activities that will help your students achieve the learning outcomes you’ve established. They recommend structuring activities in a way that results in overt performance—that is, ensuring that students’ performance is measurable against the outcomes you’ve defined. By crafting activities with this in mind, you’ll also help foster the higher-order thinking skills of evaluating and creating, as identified in Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy.
As you design your activities, you’ll also want to consider how you can optimize them for student-centered learning. Instructional Designer Jason Lancaster, M.Ed., notes that aligning your activities to your outcomes is itself an important factor in keeping students engaged. He cautions: “…many times a student activity is designed to demonstrate something drastically different from what the objective intends to elicit from students. This not only causes confusion, but also hinders the learning process, which could lead to issues later in the course. Further, students might become disengaged, passive learners.” To reduce the amount of frustration students encounter, he also recommends that “if learning how to use the technology requires significant cognitive effort and time, consider setting up a separate lesson before students dive into learning the lesson material.” (For additional guidance, read Lancaster’s complete post on the topic.)
By creating that thoughtful and deliberate connection between your activities and your outcomes, you’ll offer students a learning experience that helps them achieve your learning goals while also maintaining their engagement in the course.
These are just a few quick recommendations for crafting online activities that align with your learning outcomes. Perhaps you have some additional suggestions that have grown out of your own experiences. If so, we invite you to share your ideas in the comments section below.
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