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Course design, starting from what we know about learning?

In a practical session on distance learning course design, this year’ s Research in Distance Education (RIDE) conference, CDE Fellow Dr David Baume offered seven things that we know from meta reviews of the literature about what makes student learning happen and invited participants to sketch a module, or a week of study, based solely on one or two of those things we know about student learning – nothing else.

Written by David Baume |

Presentation title: Course design and pedagogy in distance learning, starting from things we know about learning
No-one promised that learning would be easy. But it will always be essential. Here are seven things we know about learning with reasonable confidence.

Seven things that we know from meta reviews of the literature about what makes student learning happen:

  1. A clear structure, framework, scaffolding surrounds, supports and informs learning
  2. High standards are expected of learners, and are made explicit
  3. Learners acknowledge and use their prior learning and their approaches to learning
  4. Learning is an active process
  5. Learners spend lots of time on task, that is, doing relevant things and practising
  6. Learning is at least in part a collaborative activity, among students and between students and staff
  7. Learners receive and use feedback on their work

(Baume and Scanlon, 2018)

Participants were invited to:

  • Forget / ignore / delete your current distance learning practices
  • Pick one or two of the things from the list that we confidently know about the conditions for student learning
  • Sketch a module, or a week of study, based solely on one or two of those things we know about student learning – nothing else
  • Discuss it with a neighbour
  • Consider – how will you enact new ideas when you return to work?

For most of the session, participants tested and applied the seven ideas to their open and distance learning courses. Ideas that emerged included:

  • Using idea 2 as a way for discussing and agreeing standards for student work
  • The need to populate scaffolding with examples to make it meaningful to students
  • Standards take different forms in different disciplines, as do most of the ideas – they have to be translated into discipline-appropriate terms
  • The ideas can be used as a basis to redesign courses and teaching
  • The ideas can also be used to audit and enhance practice
  • The ideas can be shared with students, to explain new features of course design and operation

 
Some CDE resources on theory and practice are here.
 
Reference
Baume, D. and Scanlon, E., 2018. What the research says about how and why learning happens. In: R. Luckin, ed., Enhancing Learning and Teaching with Technology - What the Research Says, 1st ed. London: UCL IoE Press, pp.2-13.
 

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