Learning is most effective when an appropriate blend of interactions is encouraged to establish and maintain a sense of community and enhance the learning and teaching experience. Interaction broadens experience, deepens understanding, encourages creativity, respect and consideration for other perspectives and promotes a concept of knowledge as something that is dynamic, being continually developed and challenged, rather than set in stone.


For interaction to be effective in building community and group cohesion it needs to be positive or, if negative, it needs to occur in an environment of commitment to resolving issues. It also needs to be meaningful, not superficial, and sustained. For community to develop, a range of interactions usually occur - from those that share and consolidate one's identity and values and build a sense of individual/group self-confidence and pride, to banal 'chit chat' that build a sense of community, interactions that provide opportunities to share multiple perspectives and work together to achieve common goals, and organisational interactions that simply help us achieve specific goals. And perhaps more.

When we're talking specifically about course interactions, we usually think of information access (course and subject expectations), interactive learning (learner-to-content interactions), networked learning (learner-to-learner, learner-to-teacher interactions) and student generated content (learners as designers, assessment as learning).



Learning from others' experiences...

talk.jpgIn April 2011, FLI interviewed 9 of our Teaching Fellows who have been exploring blended and flexible learning in their courses/subjects. The interviews looked at what the fellows had been working on, and what they had learned in relation to BFL and in particular, to each of the five perspective areas. The videos of these interviews are currently being edited, and will be available from this site very soon. We are also currently writing up a series of case studies that highlight the approaches others have taken to blended and flexible learning. These will be added here, as soon as they are available.

In the meantime, check out the 'case studies' and 'examples' tags in FLI's bookmarks on Delicious where we are collecting examples from other institutions.

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What kinds of effective interaction strategies are you using with your students? Please share here or, if you want to leave a general comment (e.g. what you need from this page that isn't yet here), use the discussion tab at the top. You'll need to request membership of the wiki to be able to edit this page.



Some questions for course teams to consider

question.jpgIn what ways do you currently share information about course and subject expectations? Are you satisfied that this is easy, flexible and consistent for students?
  • Embed processes to ensure accuracy and currency of information, such as guidelines for staff conducting Subject Outline Quality Assurance.
  • Ensure flexibility of access to resources for both on-campus and off-campus students.

How do you currently enable your students to interact with course content? Is this different for on-campus and off-campus students?
  • Encourage processes that increase the quality of resources provided to students while maintaining a high level of flexibility.
  • Use concept maps and graphic organisers to help students develop relationships between key ideas and build hierarchies of knowledge structures, enabling learners to interact with content, and not just cover the content
  • Organise resources carefully, including appropriate chunks and sequences, to build connections within the text.
  • Make resources and facilitation processes available to all students, not only one cohort.
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cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by sparklefish: http://flickr.com/photos/38795936@N00/308014588/


Have you considered alternatives for learning-content interactions?
  • Determine if the course can adopt a common course-level resources strategy (e.g. issuing all students with ipads that are already populated with course content; identifying common resources used across many subjects in Interact resources, PebblePad Gateway or DOMS).
  • Determine if students are to receive a blend of printed Learning Materials from the CSU Printery and Interact resources, or if students can be given a choice about how they receive resources. Or perhaps individual subjects may suit resources being located solely in Interact, PebblePad Gateway or DOMS.

What strategies are used in your course for nurturing learning communities – both online and offline? What different kinds of interactions are enabled, and how is social presence established? Are these sufficient to meet your course outcomes?
  • Include formal and informal activities to develop a sense of community, especially at the start of the course (e.g. introduction forums, home pages and small group activities that emphasise task not outcome).
  • Model social presence, including tactics to compensate for lack of verbal and non-verbal cues (e.g. emoticons). Maintain a visible but not dominant presence.
  • Provide multiple opportunities for dialogue with teachers, mentors and peers, using both asynchronous (forums, blogs) and synchronous (chat, online meeting) tools between multiple cohorts – both on-campus and off-campus.
  • Use a variety of one-to-one (peer mentors), structured (debate, seminars, roleplay), and unstructured group activities (resource sharing discussion groups) to promote collaboration – both online and offline.
  • When using multiple learning spaces (e.g. Web 2.0 technologies), use a common indicator (e.g. image) to show its connection to the subject/course.
  • Develop a plan to harness incidental learning occurring outside of formal learning and teaching activities (e.g. using the students’ personal learning space) including that occurring through collaboration and social interaction.
  • Encourage interaction at both a subject and course level.
  • Try not to intervene, and redirect questions back to the group. Use plenary sessions rather than group summaries.
  • Encourage learners to see themselves as a cooperative element in the group, not as an individual in competition with others.
  • Use assessment instruments based on group work to reflect the importance of the collaborative process in learning.

Are there opportunities for your on- and off-campus students to interact and perhaps collaborate with each other?
  • Consider using Online Meeting to bring together both internal and distance students. Lucy Webster has

How do you encourage students to be able to design, develop and share content to enhance the learning and teaching process?
  • Include student-generated content as part of assessment for learning, for example, reports, concept maps, reflective journals or blogs, digital stories, presentations, ePortfolios, and various multimedia such as photos, video and audio.


Toolbox

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We're collecting the best of what we find in our Delicious site, tagged to make it easier to find what you need. The most recent additions are included here: