Planning, Pedagogies, and Learning Management Systems : The Nuts and Bolts of Online Teaching
In Module 3, you will:
- Learn about a range of promising practices for the design of virtual (online) classrooms
- Recognize key components of the TPACK framework to inform your virtual teaching practices
- Identify and learn to apply the common features of Learning Management Systems to design, deliver and manage an online class
In this brief video introduction to Module 3, Dr. Hugh Kellam models how preservice teacher candidates can also create video introductions to their online courses.
Estimated Completion Times
Estimated Reading Time : 1 Hour
Estimated Reflection Time : 15 Minutes
Estimated Practice Time: 20 Minutes
Table of Contents for this Module
- Part 2: Designing Online Learning with Learning Theories: TPACK
3.1 Think Big
The Challenges of Delivering Online Learning
Hugh’s First Experience Developing Online Learning
One of the most challenging projects in my career was back in the early 2000s, when I was asked to completely convert in-person training to an all-virtual model. I was working at the Ontario Telemedicine Network, and the training team I managed would give in-person training sessions to doctors and nurses on how to use videoconferencing to perform patient appointments. The doctors and nurses relied on these hands-on, personalized workshops to teach them the technical and interpersonal skills to utilize this new technology. To be sure, this was a daunting task! In some ways, I didn’t even know where to start.
It involved a lot of tricky elements:
- Finding, learning and programming a learning management system
- Converting “live” content into online learning assets
- Determining assessment tools and criteria
- Convincing a reluctant student population to adopt this new learning format
- Connecting with and motivating students in online classrooms and discussion forums
- Adapting our instructional design to “think” in an online way
Does this sound familiar? Certainly our student audiences are very different, but all of these issues are the same for teaching elementary and secondary students online.
My Son’s Experience with Online Learning During the Pandemic
Caveat: The comments included here are not, in any way, a condemnation of the efforts or effectiveness of classroom teachers during the emergency pivot to online instruction during the early months of the pandemic. Teachers were put in an extremely difficult situation, often without the tools, or supports to develop meaningful online learning experiences for their students. There were, however numerous issues that my son faced that can be used to inform this section on learning management systems. Although I am pointing out what “not” to do in some cases, my intention is to present illustrative challenges as a way to help new teachers think through the complexities of online instruction and its design. There is no condemnation or judgement. Rather I hope we can enter into difficult conversations that can push all of us toward the design of more supportive learning environments.
Remember Module 1 with its focus on relationships? The main problem for my son was that he lost his classroom, as well as the connections that he had with his classmates and teachers. In the absence of these sustaining connections, he had to deal with inconsistent scheduling, class pages that were confusing or lacked organizational structure, usability difficulties, lack of variety of assessment techniques, little to no collaborative group work, inconsistent emails from teachers, and almost no direct contact with his teachers.
What was the result for my son? Frustration. Absolute frustration.
Although we could place blame on the circumstances, and lack of supports that surely would have benefitted his teachers in those months from March to June 2020, many of these issues can be common in online courses, even when teachers have the proper time and resources to develop their work. Why? These problems are most likely to arise when teachers do not take into account the needs of their learners.
In design thinking processes, the first step is to empathize with the user of the product or experience that is being designed (see figure below). Whether designing a classroom environment or a toaster oven, it is absolutely essential to begin the process of design with deep consideration of the user’s needs, interests, abilities. And of course, for teachers, there is no single “typical” user. Rather, teachers must empathize with students who have many different needs, live in many different contexts, and have a range of strengths. Design considerations for how students will show and come to feel present in their online classroom is essential (Blaine, 2019). As teachers plan their face-to-face and online classroom set up, prepare classroom management strategies, develop engaging group activities, and utilize a variety of fun and motivating teaching and evaluation tools, “empathizing” is essential and it can help us to avoid making learning environments that frustrate students. A good example of another design cycle that specializes in the use of technology can be found here.
Remember, the LMS is Your Classroom
All of us want our classrooms to be warm, welcoming, collaborative environments where our students can learn from us and each other.
In addition, we want to utilize our own teaching styles and personalities to enhance the learning process.
With today’s LMS technology, ALL of these goals are attainable (and FUN) if we remember this one guiding principle: use your creativity and passion for teaching to MAKE THE ONLINE CLASSROOM YOUR OWN. In this way, you can use your personality and talent for teaching to meet the varied needs of your students.
Part 1: The Potential of Technology: Promising Practices for Online Learning
What is the problem with online learning?
Common complaints of elementary and secondary students (and their parents) centre around the following themes:
- Inferior online classroom organization
- Poor or inconsistent communication
- Unclear learning objectives
- Lack of collaboration among students
- Inability to contact the teacher
- A feeling of isolation for student and parent
- Needless to say, these issues lead to lack of motivation and poor learning outcomes for students
How do we fix it?
- Planning and development of virtual classrooms has to keep this one principle in mind:
- Technology has to keep up with the needs of students, not the other way around
- If we want to empower our learners, online resources must open the doors to new experiences and opportunities for learning, collaboration and production of new knowledge
- What follows is a top-10 list of recommended practices for the virtual classroom…
1. Simplicity and Consistency
- In your regular classroom, you establish routines, utilize visual cues and charts, and create a sense of comfort for your students
- It should and must be the same online
- When you are beginning a new lesson or topic, introduce it with a video or audio explanation
- Keep email communications, synchronous class sessions, small group discussions and work due dates consistent from week to week. This will help both you and your students stay organized, engaged and on task.
- Always use clear instructions and only use one or two external resources (that are publicly and easily accessible) per lesson
2. Establish and Introduce the Virtual Classroom
- We will cover more on this in the coming section, but every virtual classroom should have the following sections:
- An introduction page with bio of the teacher, class schedule, calendar and assignment due dates
- Weekly content section listed by date (for example Week 1 September 5-12), with all of the lectures, resources, assignments and rubrics for that week
- An assignment section where students can submit work
- A grades section to check their progress and marks
- An appointment section to schedule an appointment with the teacher
We will cover more on this in the coming section, but successful virtual classroom environments often include:
- An online discussion forum (with the ability for whole class and small group discussions)
- A group work section (can be part of the discussion forum) where group members can share work
- A section with links to upcoming live lectures and group discussions
- Some sort of whiteboard or document-sharing software to promote live collaboration
- A resources section with help guides and links to videos on how to use the learning resource
3. Use Individual Meetings
- Individual touch points and meetings are often tough in the regular classroom, but online learning can provide this opportunity for you
- Remember, what your students will miss the most is the human connection that is cultivated in your classroom.
- You can create these touchpoints through any medium you like: emails, video messages, phone calls, messages through your learning management system, comments on shared documents, etc. Create a structure and stick to it (Farah, 2020).
- Your students will see your investment and know that you care about them
4. Synchronous Lectures
- Believe it or not, your students miss you and your lectures!
- You need to have regular class meetings and lectures via video (Adobe Connect, Zoom, GoToMeeting, etc.) in order to interact with your students in real time
- In addition to video, audio, and text chat, include a space for document sharing or a virtual whiteboard. This space can be used for freehand drawing, live note-taking, sharing of PDF files, a slideshow, or other forms of multimedia (Farah, 2020).
- Schedule a weekly time and stick to it – remember that consistency and routine is key.
5. Collaboration is Possible – and Critical
- Find ways for students to work together, learn from one another, and collaborate on projects
- There are several ways to promote this:
- Have small group (4-6 student) synchronous meetings to discuss topics, literature or key points
- Set up a space for small groups to work asynchronously
- Promote use of a class and small group discussion forum with real-world topics and tasks
- Give small groups a project to work on, and if possible make it part of a larger class project (this increases motivation and learner satisfaction)
6. Flipped Classroom Activities
- This is an important concept for our present environment as many parents are struggling with helping their children with homework and schedules
- If possible, find and assign (or create your own) video lectures on key topics that you can assign as “homework” for the students to complete
- Utilize your weekly class sessions or small group discussions for the completion of exercises, homework sheets or assignments
- You can even create groups based on skill level
- This will make the best use of your time and teaching expertise, and also alleviate the frustration for many parents and students!
7. Prioritize Longer, Student-Driven Assignments
- To effectively manage your time and sanity, you can prioritize longer, student-driven assignments and tasks that buy you time to keep planning future units—and that get your students off the computer (Farah, 2020)
- Longer projects give students autonomy and can have a clear set of checkpoints and deadlines that need to be met – keeping student and you on track
- Create opportunities for students to discuss what they’re learning with their families and include an element of student choice to really build engagement
- Great examples would be essays, unit projects, math workbooks, research papers and presentations
8. Vary your Assessments
- Sometimes this seems harder in the online classroom, but there are many choices available to you
- Remember that if technology is required (such as a screen casting software), pick something that is available and as user-friendly as possible
- Model the use of the software if possible
- Some ideas for assignments:
- Individual written assignments and presentations
- Videos and webinars
- Collaborative writing with Google docs
- Online painting and drawing
- Group discussions in forums or blogs for formative assessment
9. Personalize the Environment
- This is true for both the teacher AND students
- For your home page, include personal information, photos and stories that show your personality
- Create a “home” page for the class where students can share their personalities as well
- Film your weekly lectures or videos from different locations in your house, or on location
- Promote assignments where students can share information, pictures or videos from their own home or daily routine
- Believe it or not, the online environment provides an even better opportunity for teacher and student to share experiences, photos and anecdotes
10. Teaching via Connectivism
What is Connectivism?
- The idea that knowledge exists everywhere and is accessed, processed and organized by the learner
- Learning is the process of creating connections, developing an network
- Part of the learning process is to consider the VALUE of the information and determining if it is useful
- The amount of knowledge is increasing at an exponential rate, and to be able to determine useful vs. unimportant is becoming a modern skill that learners need to obtain and develop
Connectivism places primary importance on an individual’s ability to access material at the time they need it to answer a specific question, rather than expecting them to have already acquired and retained specific knowledge which may later prove useful. As such the approach focuses on establishing a network of connections, the ability to leverage these in a timely fashion and the skills to critically appraise information offered (Siemens, 2005).
In a nutshell, here are some tips:
- Model for students HOW they can find and access useful online information and resources for your class by:
- Providing direct links to resources
- Teach online search techniques
- Demonstrate how to review a resource for its effectiveness, relevancy and value
- Set up assignments that require web searches and accessing resources online
- Promote collaborative projects that involve small group learning
- Include asynchronous (document or webinar) resources that both students and parents can access on demand
11. Don’t be PUSHY, be POSITIVE
Okay, so there are really 11 tips here!
- Today’s learning management systems like Hapara and Google Classroom afford teachers with the opportunity to remind students about upcoming assignments, due dates and overdue work
- Remember, however, that students have other classes, and are often bombarded with reminders of what they “haven’t” done
- We are here to build up students and show them what they can do!!
- Keep notifications to a minimum, preferably to overdue assignments only
- You can set them up to send reminders to you, and then follow-up with students via email instead
Part 2: Designing Online Learning with Learning Theories: TPACK
Technology in the Classroom: Initial Thoughts
The degree of success teachers have in using technology for instruction depends on their ability to explore the relationship between pedagogy and technology (Okojie, M., Olinzock, A., & Boulder, T. (2006). Students (of any age) are most successful when they are taught how to learn as well as what to learn (Barron, B. & Hammond, L. D., 2008).
The TPACK Model
What is the TPACK Framework?
• The TPACK framework was introduced by Punya Mishra and Matthew J. Koehler of Michigan State University in 2006 and has been revised over time (e.g., Mishra, 2018).
• In their framework, Mishra and Koehler first identified three, and then four primary and specialized forms of knowledge that teachers use to make decisions about what to teach, how to teach and why to teach in particular ways. These knowledges are: Content Knowledge (CK), Pedagogical Knowledge (PK), Technological Knowledge (TK) and Contextual Knowledge (XK).
• These forms of knowledge overlap and influence each other. This means, for example, that when teachers design a unit of study focused on a particular set of concepts, they also consider how to teach those concepts in ways that will be supportive of their learners. This is called Pedagogical Content Knowledge because content knowledge and pedagogical knowledges overlap. Likewise, when teachers layer in a technology, its affordances (i.e., what the technology can do) factor into their decision making about whether this tool will support the learning of concept X according to their understanding of how to teach this concept effectively. Perhaps most importantly, teachers’ understanding of context, culture and the situation in which their teaching takes place frames all of their decisions.
What is the benefit of studying this theory?
TPACK is a framework for understanding the unique and specialized knowledges that teachers use to inform their pedagogical decision making. It gives us a way to describe the very unique forms of thinking required for the design of good learning — whether online or in face-to-face instructional environments. It also helps us to understand how online teaching is an ecological change — not just an add on — because the interactions of the technology with content, context and pedagogies all necessarily shift.
The Combinations of TPACK
• The four types of knowledge – TK, PK, CK and XK – are combined and recombined in various ways within the TPACK framework
Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK)
• As teachers, we design lessons based on how students can best learn our specific course material
• PCK focuses on promoting learning and on tracing the links among pedagogy and its supportive practices (curriculum, assessment, etc.)
• PCK seeks to improve teaching practices by creating stronger connections between the content and the pedagogy used to communicate it
• PCK helps simplify a subject and teach it effectively
Technological Content Knowledge (TCK)
• How the technology influences the content
• Describes teachers’ understanding of how technology and content can both influence and push against each other
• TCK involves understanding how the subject matter can be communicated via different technology teaching modalities, and considering what forms of technology are best suited for specific subject matters or classrooms
Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK)
• Highlights the area where technology and pedagogy influence each other
• Describes how particular technologies can change both the teaching and learning experiences by introducing new pedagogical affordances and constraints
• Helps us as teachers identify how such tools can be deployed alongside pedagogy for the effective development of the lesson at hand
Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK)
In this two-minute video by Candace Marcotte, we see how TPACK can be thought of as the “sweet spot” for the balanced consideration of all elements. It is a specialized knowledge that integrates technological knowledge, with content knowledge, contextual knowledge and pedagogical knowledge. Note that in 2006, when initially conceptualized, context was not a significant knowledge consideration. Marcotte only emphasizes three knowledges — but the model has since been revised to acknowledge the fundamental role that context plays in the framework. Context interacts with all of these knowledges because it is the situation in which all of the pedagogical thinking takes place.
How Can We Utilize TPACK?
• Harris, Hofer et al. (2010) provide us with many examples of how our instructional planning could include each part of the TPACK framework
• Learning outcomes = CONTENT
• The second step they propose is choosing an activity type
• The activity type is the pedagogy or how are the students going to learn the content (THINKING SKILLS)
• Finally, we can choose technologies that will support the activity type and aid the students in learning (TECHNOLOGY)
|Activity Type||Description||Possible Technologies|
|View Presentation||Students gain information from teachers, guest speakers, can be synchronous or asynchronous, oral or multimedia||PowerPoint, Photostory, iMovie, Inspiration, MovieMaker|
|Field Trip||Students travel to physical or virtual sites, can be synchronous or asynchronous||Virtual fieldtrips, Photostory to develop their own virtual tours|
|Conduct an Interview||Face to face, on the telephone, via videoconferencing||Audacity, MovieMaker, Zoom|
There are even suggestions for incorporating technologies based on subject matter found here (Hofer & Harris, 2015). The table below is an example of this valuable content for K-6 Literacy.
|Activity Type||Description||Possible Technologies|
|Guided Reading||Students learn how to think about text by reading in small groups, engaging in discussion, and completing a mini lesson/learning activity||e-books, BookFlix, WiggleWorks|
|Literature Circles or Reading Workshops||Students choose their own books, form small-groups and meet regularly to read and discuss the books||Storyline Online, BookFlix, ebooks, bloggingblogging, wiki, online discussion group, podcasting|
|Read Aloud||Students actively listen to an oral reading of a book||Document camera, Storyline Online, BookFlix, e-books, educational software (e.g., WiggleWorks), podcasting, Leap Frog Tag books|
Remember, there are lots of opportunities to improve your online classroom through plugins, links to useful software and inclusion of web-based activites. Use some variety to appeal to all of the learning styles in youc classroom, and have fun teaching and learning withyour students!
Part 3: Introduction to Google Classroom, Hapara and Brightspace
Now that we have looked at some recommended practices and theory for setting up your online classroom, let’s take a more detailed look at each of our three learning managment systems. For each LMS, we will examine:
- Layout and features, keeping in mind four key pedagogical elements:
- content sharing
- collaboration among students
- communicating with students
- Recommended Video Tutorial for Initial Setup
- Useful Resources and Examples
Remember this is not a comprehensive tutorial on how to use each LMS, but it will provide you with a practical starting point to begin your journey of teaching online!
Layout and Key Features
Google Classroom has four main pages in its base design: Stream, Classwork, People and Grades. The home page is Stream (below). This page is your vehicle for introducing the class and providing automatic notifications and class announcements. All upcoming assignments are automatically posted int the box on the left of the page, and any notifications or announcements are in the middle of the page. Please note that any time you make a change to an assignment or add content that the change will automatically be posted on this page. It’s a good idea to turn off automatic notifications (in the settings or pinwheel button at the top right of the page) in order to not overwhelm students. I recommend that each week when you post content that you draft a personal announcement to the class and post it on this page. You can also choose the picture for the main banner, so find (or take one yourself) that is appropriate and personalized.
The second page is the Classwork page, and it is for posting any content or creating assignments. To avoid confusion and cluttering up the page, try to organize your content in weekly or bi-weekly sections. This will allow students to stay on track and easily monitor their progress. Access to the class calendar and Google drive folder are also on this page. All assignments and due dates can be automatically loaded into the calendar.
The third page is the People page, and I recommend that you create a personalized page including a photo and key items about yourself. Students can be invited automatically via email to join the class and add a photo and details about themselves as well. Remember, you can learn a lot about your students by using this page effectively! You can allow students to see each others’ profiles if you wish, as well as form groups for classwork and collaboration.
Finally, there is the Grades page. You can view all grades for the class, and students can view their own grades on one location. This is a fantastic way for students (and their parents) to keep track of their progress. Again, keep it simple and use this for the major grades and assessments for the year so as to not overwhelm students..
This was just a short orientation, but you can see the Google support page if you have any specific questions.
Recommended Video Tutorial
Google Classroom for Beginners and Excellent Examples:
Useful Resources and Examples
One of the great strengths of Google Classroom is that there are a lot of plugins or apps that you can add to your course, from assessment tools, assignments, video creation tools and much more. The best list I have found is here, and it includes ideas for all grade levels.
Layout and Key Features
Hapara provides one main page (called a Workspace) with five columns that you can rename according to your needs (see example below).
The first column is for organizing class groups and providing key dates of assignments or upcoming events. You can organize collaborative workspaces around ability-level, language barriers, learning or conceptual goals for your students. The second column (called goals here) can contain links to class content. As mentioned in the Google Classroom section, to avoid confusion and cluttering up the page, try to organize your content in weekly or bi-weekly sections. This will allow students to stay on track and easily monitor their progress. The third column can be used to provide links and access to resources and lessons online. Again, I would align this column in a weekly or bi-weekly format to keep the page clean. The fourth column can be used for assessment. You can keep all your weekly assignments, tests and projects in this area and embed due dates and submission guidelines here as well. Finally, the fifth column is optional, and in this case it was used for a rubric. I would put the rubric in the assessment column and use this column for my weekly announcements. This “communication” column can be used to update students about the work and expectations for each week. Remember, keeping this page clean and organized will allow your students and parents to stay on track, informed and help monitor their progress!
Recommended Video Tutorial
Useful Resources and Examples
Hapara provides the ability to monitor your students’ progress and collaboration in real time. The feature is called “Highlights” and a tutorial can be found here.
Layout and Key Features
There are so many features of Brightspace, as it is a complete learning management system designed for both academic and professional use. Once again, we will focus on the layout for a clean and efficient online classroom experience.
What we see below is the student view, and we will focues on the Content, Announcements, Grades, Groups and Assignments pages.
The Content page is the home page, and each content page can be found under the “Table of Contents” tab on the left. Again, I like to list each content page by week and also include the dates. On each content page I include all of the lecture videos, slides, website links, discussion forum links, assignment links and resources for that week. Keeping them in one place really helps the students stay focused and on track! Once a student completes all work for the week, there is a checkmark that automatically appears beside that week in the table of contents.
The announcements tab is ideal for welcoming students to the course or for any changes or key events during the semester. All announcemnts are automatically emailed to students as well, so make sure they are important! Try to include a welcome video if possible to personalize the experience and introduce your class.
The grades page provides a clean look at all graded items and their weight in the course. Again, focus on larger assignments or groups of work to keep the page clean.
You can easily assign students to Groups during the semester, and from this tab groups can communicate via email, post to a discussion forum, submit assignments or collaborate on a document. Finally, the assignments tab lists all of the assignments for the semester. I like to include all of the documents needed for each assignment here such as the description, template and rubric or marking scheme. It also allows students to see which ones they have submitted and keep them on track
Recommended Video Tutorial
There is an entire library online of Brightspace tutorials provided by Brightspace. Here is the first in a series of orientation videos that you can explore.
Useful Resources and Examples
There are not as many examples of Brigtspace for elementary and high schools, but there are lots of great forums with examples and ideas. One focuses on using Brightspace for K-12 students, and another highlights the best plugins and templates for Brightspace.
What learning theories have you used or would you use to design online learning for your classroom?
Using the recommendations in Part 2, how will you use online learning tools to make the virtual classroom your own?
Your reflection task for Module 3 is to think about the following four elements of classroom learning and how you will adapt them for your online classroom:
- Content Delivery
- Collaboration Among Students
- Your Connection With Students
On an one sheet of paper (or Word document), divide the page into quadrants based on the four sections above. Jot down at lease three ideas for each section of how you will address each of the topics in the online classsroom.
Your practice task in Module 3 is to find out what learning managment system your school is using and begin to design your home page for your class. If you have access to the system, please use a blank home page template. If you don’t, you can prepare a template of your own using Word or PowerPoint. Please include the following sections on the home page, including graphics and a brief description of each:
- Class Schedule
- Class News
- Group Work
- Individual Student Pages (Including Your Page)
- Communication/Office Hours
Ready to move on to Module 4?
In Module 4, we explore one of the most difficult elements of teaching online: assessment and evaluation.
References for Module 3
Barron, B., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2008). Powerful learning: What we know about teaching for understanding. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Blaine, A. M. (2019). Interaction and presence in the virtual classroom: An analysis of the perceptions of students and teachers in online and blended Advanced Placement courses. Computers & Education, 132, 31-43. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2019.01.004
Farah, K. (2020, March). 4 Tips for teachers shifting to teaching online. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/article/4-tips-supporting-learning-home
Harris, J. B., Hofer, M. J., Schmidt, D. A., Blanchard, M. R., Young, C. Y., Grandgenett, N. F., & Van Olphen, M. (2010). Grounded technology integration: Instructional planning using curriculum-based activity type taxonomies. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 18(4), 573-605.
Hofer, M. & Harris, J. (2015). Developing TPACK with learning activity types. In M. Hofer, L. Bell, & G. Bull (Eds). Practioner’s guide to technology, pedagogy and content knowledge: Rich media cases of teacher knowledge (pp. 7-1:7-14) AACTE. Retrieved from https://activitytypes.wm.edu/HoferHarris-DevelopingTPACKWithLearningActivityTypes.pdf
Herring, M., Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2016). Handbook of technological pedagogical content knowledge (2nd Edition). New York: Routledge.
Mishra, P., (2018). Revised version of TPACK image. Retrieved from https://punyamishra.com/2018/09/10/the-tpack-diagram-gets-an-upgrade/
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017–1054.
Okojie, M., Olinzock, A., & Boulder, T. (2006). The pedagogy of technology integration. The Journal of Technology Studies, 32. doi:10.21061/jots.v32i2.a.1.
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 13-22.