The pop culture image of a college professor has been the same for years. It’s a lecturer in a vast hall, holding forth as students take frantic notes. The only thing that has changed through time is the background, from a chalkboard to whiteboard to slideshow.
Thankfully, even if the stereotype hasn’t evolved, actual pedagogy has. A monologue lecture is just one tool in an ever-expanding toolkit. And it’s often the least used. Modern teachers know that differentiating instruction for different learning styles leads to better outcomes for students.
For digital learning and teaching, however, it’s easy to fall back into the lecture mode. Instead of a lecture hall, it’s endless PDFs and slideshows. But the result is the same: disengaged students and frustrated instructors.
Here’s how teachers can take advantage of the unique capabilities of digital learning to differentiate for their students.
1. Digital Teaching: Presentation
Online learning can be even more dynamic, creative and interactive than an in-person class experience. Start with adding multimedia elements to the curriculum, such as video, audio, and interactive elements like data visualizations and timelines.
Teachers shouldn’t have to create these assets, either. Some vendors provide digital learning curricula with multimedia already embedded. There are also plenty of resources around the web, too.Information is Beautiful is a great place to start for interactive data visualization for hundreds of topics.
Adding multimedia can help students who process information visually, aurally, or who need a hands-on experience. But it’s also important to make sure each element is accessible to all students. That means providing transcripts for audio, describing video for the visually impaired, etc.
Also keep in mind that students are likely using different types of devices to look at course materials. Over 50% of online traffic is on mobile devices (phones and tablets) rather than laptops or desktops. It’s important to make sure your multimedia looks and works great across devices.
2. Digital Learning: Process
Digital learning is about more than how the teacher presents information, of course. The other crucial component is how students engage with what has been presented — the learning process. Digital learning has unique capabilities for allowing students to customize that process.
Students can progress at their own pace more easily online than in a traditional class. Teachers can easily monitor progress and answer questions, and group students into discussion groups based on pace.
It’s good to encourage collaboration within these groups that goes deeper than just reading and commenting on each others’ posts. Students can use a service like Google Docs to create a living document, sharing notes, interacting with each other, even developing a final group project.
Overall, it’s easier for students to communicate with instructors and with each other in a digital course. Teachers can have a more complete picture of student progress and facilitate meaningful interaction with other students and with course materials.
3. Digital Learning: Evaluation
Assessment is the final piece of the digital learning puzzle. A standard digital assessment is the multiple-choice test. It’s a convenient method: a computer can tally and render an immediate final score. That type of assessment is necessary and useful, but evaluation shouldn’t end there.
Teachers can encourage students to create a project or presentation that goes beyond the traditional multiple-choice test or 10-page essay. Many modern students already have experience with free tools like Scratch for games and animation, Weebly for building websites, and Audacity for creating audio. Encourage students to create an authentic product in a medium that allows for creative expression as well as demonstrating mastery of the material.
Digital Learning and Teaching: A Richer Experience for Students & Instructors
A digital learning course can be an amazing opportunity for students in every learning style — or it can be as dry and non-interactive as that stereotypical lecture hall. Teachers should take full advantage of their opportunities to differentiate instruction and engage students online. From instruction to assessment, every part of the process can be more collaborative, more varied, and ultimately more effective.
Caduceus creates interactive, multi-dimensional health curriculum that engages students and promotes learning. Explore our courses here.