For over 20 years I worked at the Open University (UK) which is a world leader in online distance education. Over the last few years I have had the privilege of spending time at a number of predominantly face-to-face universities in Australia that were at various stages of developing their online provision, including over the last few months when most courses went online due to COVID19. I have been struck by the vast range of different approaches to online course provision I have seen, and thought it would be useful to try to categorise them.
My thinking was informed by Bradbeer et al. (2017, p.25) who came up with five approaches to face-to-face teaching:
- Teacher facilitated presentation, direct instruction or large group discussion.
- Teacher facilitated small group discussion of instruction.
- Team teacher facilitated presentation, direct instruction or large group discussion.
- Collaborative/shared learning, supported by teachers as needed.
- One-on-one instruction.
- Individual learning.
However, their categorisation doesn’t identify the three elements that I think are essential for any online course:
- materials (to support the learners)
- a cohort of participants who are studying the materials in the same timeframe
- feedback (including as part of assessment)
Model 1 F2F
+ website acting as a repository of documents (e.g. Course overview; Reading list; assignment briefs/rubrics) which may be structured by Week/Topic
+ uploading of assignments (e.g. via Turnitin)
+ broadcasting of ‘announcements’
+ optional asynchronous discussion may be available (e.g. to ask questions about assignments).
Model 2 Replicated F2F (The COVID19 model)
As Model 1 but with face to face elements replaced by recorded lectures and synchronous online tutorials (i.e. video conferencing).
Model 3 Online Stage 1
Discrete online instructions (e.g. a video and/or document providing an overview of the week/topic with key focus questions)
+ discrete resources (e.g. readings, videos) for that week/topic
+ asynchronous contributions that are loosely linked to topics (e.g. an instruction to contribute to discussion of the key focus questions in the forums, but lack of support for developing dialogue).
There may be (optional) synchronous tutorials.
Assessment may include contributions to asynchronous discussion forums (marks for posting), other online elements (e.g. a quiz), and/or uploading of assignments.
Model 4 Online Stage 2
As Model 3 but instructions are integrated into a sequence of readings/videos/tasks.
Specific asynchronous contributions are required and explained in the instructions.
Model 5 Online Stage 3
The course is structured as a sequence of integrated activities, with a clear focus and built in feedback mechanisms.
Asynchronous discussion is integrated with other activities and developed to support dialogue.
Assessment may include online elements and/or uploading of assignments. Contributing to forum discussions will improve your assignment grade but marks are not awarded for posting.
In this post I have suggested five models of online provision, which seem to represent a continuum of progression from face-to-face to online teaching.
Models 1 and 2 assume face-to-face teaching approaches and make little attempt to take advantages of the affordances of being online or the needs of students learning at a distance.
Models 3 and 4 adapt their pedagogy to take advantage of the affordances of being online and start to incorporate elements to support learning at a distance.
Model 5 adopts online pedagogical practices that take full advantage of the affordances of being online and support for distance learning.
I would love your views on my five models - do they adequately describe the full range of approaches to online provision? If not, what would you change?
In my next post I will try to unpack these models in terms of key dimensions of online course provision.