The first time I engaged with a group via e-learning was in 2005. I have been teaching graduate courses online since 2011. We often follow a standard learning design of having students read material and then write an online discussion post summarizing and/or reflecting on their readings. They repeat this format in just about every course they take. Students have anecdotally reported that they find this process tiresome, static and not very productive in terms of learning.
As a course instructor, I also find it somewhat unproductive. Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe that written tasks have their place. At the same time, I also believe that we can provide students with challenging and engaging ways of learning that go beyond the traditional text post on a discussion board.
With that in mind, I have been playing around with using video to make online learning more engaging for my students. Since the course I am teaching right now is as Master’s level course called Language Learning and Technology, we are learning about how to incorporate technology into learning meaningful ways. I figured that if continue to engage through traditional text-posts, we are not really learning how to incorporate technology in new ways! So, I have challenged the students to do video posts about their course readings, instead of their usual weekly write ups. Students are creating and sharing videos of 3 minutes or less that classmates and I can read and respond to. Students post their videos within our learning management system (D2L) that is associated with the course.
To lead by example, I have also been posting weekly videos welcoming students to each week of the course. In this week’s video post, I offer my own reflections on a recent article that I read, showing them how they can do their own reflections on a reading in their video posts.
Reflections on what I have learned from an instructional perspective
I realized after I posted my video that I could have conducted a more in-depth reflection in my post. This was good learning for me, because I had a lot more thoughts swirling around in my head about the reading I did, but I didn’t express them all in the video. In a written post, I would have taken the time to write, edit, revise and then maybe edit and revise some more. In the video post, I shared my reflections, but didn’t fuss over whether it was perfect. I will be mindful of this when I engage in my assessment of students’ learning using this format.
You can see that I start off with the date, and mentioning the weather for today in Calgary, where I live. I wanted to show students that I was not recycling material and that what I was creating for them was new and fresh.
I think showing that the material is new not only enhances learning and promotes principles of academic integrity, it shows we are not being lazy as instructors. I think that traditional text posts can be problematic in terms of academic integrity because students may be tempted, from time to time, to have someone else write posts on their behalf. This is a form of contract cheating (where a third party completes work on behalf of a student). Curtis and Clare (2017) reported that about 3.5% of students admitted to contract cheating. Even though that percentage is small, it is still important for instructors to offer students ways of demonstrating learning in ways that go beyond traditional writing tasks. It is important for instructors to changes the circumstances that might make it easier or more tempting for students to have someone else complete work on their behalf.
I mention this only because I research and write about topics related to academic integrity, so it’s always on my mind. By and large, I think our students are committed to their learning and act with integrity as professionals and as learners.
My intention with these activities is to offer students an opportunity to engage in ways other than text that is authentic and interesting. The process of reflecting on readings is different when we engage verbally than in writing. We are still using text-based elements of the course such as replies to weekly posts, but so far, video seems to providing a fun-yet-rigorous way for students to showcase their learning.
Curtis, G. J., & Clare, J. (2017). How prevalent is contract cheating and to what extent are students repeat offenders? Journal of Academic Ethics, 15(2), 115-124. doi:10.1007/s10805-017-9278-x
Kumar Basak, S., Wotto, M., & Bélanger, P. (2018). E-learning, M-learning and D-learning: Conceptual definition and comparative analysis. E-Learning and Digital Media, 15(4), 191-216. doi:10.1177/204275301878518
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.
Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.