Branching Activities – What, Why and When

Why interactivity?

Interactivity is an essential course design element in online learning. Interactivity could be defined in many ways, but let’s think of it in the context of passive vs. active learning. Passive learning environments contain little to no interactive elements and can be thought of as having stereotypical, “traditional” methods of content delivery and comprehension checks.

In these environments, students may go to class, take notes on everything that they see on a slide deck and take a structured weekly quiz, but they aren’t actually learning or retaining anything and aren’t able to regurgitate or apply the information in a practical setting.

In an active environment, the content may be the same as what is presented in a passive environment, but it’s interactivity that changes everything. Student learn by doing rather than just listening, and traditional methods of content delivery and reinforcement are replacing with hands-on, collaborative multimedia activities and assessments. Presenting content in more meaningful and engaging ways can lead to more effective learning experiences for students.

This is where branching activities come in.

Branching activities

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a branching activity, think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure flowchart of choices that is based on scenarios and decision making. You may remember choose-your-own-adventure books from your childhood, where you would make decisions along a storyline that led you down certain paths and ultimately an ending point based on all of your previous decisions.

In the context of online learning, branching activities are one of the many ways to bring more interactivity into a course. A well-planned, well-thought-out branching activity can transform a passive learning activity into a rich, active learning experience, one in which students are immediately able to reinforce and apply the information that they just learned.

When should I use branching activities?

Branching activities are applicable in many learning situations and have been used successfully by instructors in a number of ways:

  • Scenario/decision-based activities
    • Nursing simulations where students make decisions on how to deal with a patient
    • Interview simulations where students have to react to certain question/reactions from the interviewer
  • Activities to guide students to resources/other activities
    • Asking students to “see where they are” before a new topic is started to point them towards specific resources
    • Asking students to participate in certain alternate discussions, activities or assignments based on their responses to topic-related questions
  • Reinforce concepts with optional branching activities that can be revisited
    • Study guides that aren’t just an outline of topics to be covered in an assessment (Gamification, etc.)

There are many other situations where a branching activity could be useful. Try to think of a project or idea in your course(s) that could take on a branched format.

Next, we’ll discuss how you can plan and build a branching activity.

If you have any questions about branching activities or anything related to multimedia elements of course design, feel free to reach out to me at tamburro.5@osu.edu.

Multimedia Innovation: Our Plan

Educational innovation is a top priority at Ohio State. Across our campuses, we strive to be at the forefront of a better and more modern student experience. Here at ODEE, we are no different. The Distance Education team works hard every day to make sure that our course design and development processes will lead to positive experiences and effective learning for online students.

A new wave of innovation has come into focus for our team in the form of multimedia advancement. Although we feel as though our multimedia efforts are already strong, we have developed an initiative that identifies some important work to be done in the next year (and beyond) that will allow faculty to present more dynamic and engaging course content to online students.

One of our bigger goals in the coming year is to get multimedia innovation integrated into our course design process. This means that there will be a section of each of our course designs that focuses solely on opportunities for multimedia advancement. Faculty will have conversations with our team to develop plans and identify possible work to be done in this area, which may include replacing a few traditional assignments with interactive, click-through activities, for example.

To go along with this, on our end, we will be developing a clear project management system that makes multimedia innovation easy for our faculty. A clear planning system will be drawn out and faculty will have the opportunity to complete clear and reachable goals surrounding multimedia improvements to their course(s).

Additionally, we are in the process of developing an ‘innovative tool guide’ that will help our instructional designers and online faculty identify tools that meet their innovative needs. Whether faculty are brand new to the multimedia game or have an idea that they are not quite sure how to execute, the guide will be there to provide answers. We are also piloting a storyboard that will be used to easily build out interactive projects.

We also have plans to explore the relatively new field of virtual reality, which has the potential to play a very interesting and impactful role in the world of online education. Additional new technologies will continue to challenge the way we do things on a daily basis.

All of these measures are being taken to ensure that our online students continue to receive the most dynamic and rich learning experiences possible. A few tweaks to traditional learning methods with an open mind of the advantages of multimedia learning can go a long way in greatly enhancing the student experience.

If you have any questions about our plan or anything related to multimedia elements of course design, feel free to reach out to me at tamburro.5@osu.edu.

Webinar Recording: Teaching Large Courses Online (7/25/2017)

View the webinar recording at http://carmenconnect.osu.edu/p5p8lcegg1n/

In this webinar, Dr. Brian Lower  and his team, Kylienne Shaul and Ella Weaver, talked about some of the steps they have taken to develop a deeply engaging large online course, ENR2100: Introduction to Environmental Sciences. They will especially describe how they have used writing-based assessments and peer-review processes to enable students to think more deeply about the material and extend their understanding through interaction (in both on-ground and online versions of the course).

2013 in-person ENR Poster Session, the inspiration for a virtual poster session assignment that helps drive student engagement in the large course.  For more information and examples of student work, visit https://u.osu.edu/environmentalsciencesymposium/

ODEE DELTA Webinar Recording: iOS Apps for Teaching and Learning (Adobe Spark Pages and ExplainEverything) (6/27/2017)

It is easy to get lost in the large and expanding universe of apps that you can use to improve learning in your courses. This webinar will introduce you to two of the best, Adobe Spark Pages and ExplainEverything, both of which make it easy to produce fancy multimedia content with minimal training or expertise.  That means you can use them as an instructor to produce richer, more engaging learning materials for your students without needing to sacrifice the hours required to become a proper web designer or videographer.  It also means you have two more tools your students can use to create shiny, personalized assignments that nevertheless stay focused on demonstrating the understandings and abilities that are the true goals of your course.

In this webinar recording, Scott Sheeler, Educational Technologist on ODEE’s College Ready Ohio team, provides a lively introduction to these apps and shows how to use them like a pro in this webinar originally presented on June 27, 2017.

 

 

Lectures? We Should Talk… Or Not

What Does the Research Say about Lectures?

It is well-established in the lore of online instructors and those who support them that lecture-centered teaching is not as effective as almost any other kind. Who wants to share the road with young drivers who only ever heard about how to steer but never got to try it yet? Who wants to be the first patient of a surgeon who got a solid B on all the quizzes but has not yet seen blood? Proper learning must include lots of opportunity for students to put their hands (and minds) to work. People learn by doing not listening. Humans can only pay attention to lectures for 10 minutes before losing attention, less online. (What is the longest cat video you ever watched? And cat videos are intrinsically awesome.)

It makes intuitive sense. But this is a university; we do evidence, not intuition. (And use semi-colons is obscure but technically acceptable ways.) As I was reminded recently by a colleague during a consultation, it’s not enough to be correct in academia. One must also share one’s bibliography.

So what is the evidence for the lecture lore?

The list below is intended to begin to answer that question by listing a few of the broadest, clearest, most influential, and most evidentiary write-ups on the subject. Thus, I will also include a request: if you have a bibliography you like to use — or even just a compelling research publication or persuasive presentation not included here — please add it in the comments below.

ODEE DELTA Webinar Recording: eXperiencing Play: An Introduction to Game Design (4/24/2017)

The potential for games to engage students and deepen learning is well-established by research, as well as intuition: play is part of the way most animal species teach their young, and we can observe games and competition playing a role in most areas of human culture as we walk through the world. The challenge for educators, especially online educators, has been to tap into the power of games and play without breaking the bank.  It can seem daunting to compete with commercial video game developers.  The good news is that you don’t have to.  There are several powerful ways to build game-based learning activities for students using tools that are easy to learn and efficient to use.

In this webinar recording, Ben Scragg, Manager of Learning Technology at ODEE, introduces you to some of these design tools, as well as deeper understanding of how games can enhance learning and situations where they can do so most effectively in “eXperiencing Play: An Introduction to Game Design,” originally presented on April 24, 2017.

ODEE DELTA Webinar Recording: Starting on the Right Foot: Helping Students Navigate Research Projects Online (3/15/2017)

Link: http://carmenconnect.osu.edu/p5qavhyf3d5/
Date: 3/15/2017

If you are teaching, you are almost by definition an expert researcher, which can make it difficult (ironically) to provide clear guidance to novice researchers, such as your students. Steps in the process that you complete so automatically that you may have stopped noticing that you are doing it — such as framing clear research questions and ignoring useless and misleading sources — can be serious obstacles for your students.

In this webinar Chris Manion (Writing Across the Curriculum coordinator at the OSU Center for the Study of Teaching and Writing) and Amanda Folk (head of Teaching and Learning at the OSU Libraries) discussed straightforward steps you can take and resources you can make use of in your course to help your students conduct purpose-driven research that will extend and feed their learning.

ODEE DELTA Webinar: Creating and Using Media in Your Online Course (3/1/2017)

Daunted by the prospect of making videos for your course?  Not sure where to begin to record, edit, or even share videos?  Not 100% clear on how your students might benefit?  Worried that your work will never live up to Kubrik or Spielberg?  ODEE’s DELTA recently hosted a webinar that can answer these questions and more (and why it doesn’t matter whether your students start calling you “Professor Auteur”). Watch and listen as Scott Nelson, ODEE’s Instructional Design Video Coordinator, provide a clear and concise overview of what you need to know about “Creating and Using Media in Your Online Course”

screen clipping from the webinar described in this post, showing the display of the webinar recording, including a shot of scott nelson demonstrating how to build a video in iMovie

A special highlight is Scott’s live-action demo of how easy it can be to assemble a video in iMovie and similar tools, starting about 46:00 in.

 

Allow Googling During Assessments

It is best practice for online courses to include three types of interaction for students. Students should be able to interact with the content, each other and the instructor.  This interaction is fully realized when assessments move students beyond factual level knowledge. Students should have to apply their understanding of course content and concepts through discussions, presentations and reflections. All of these types of assessments can be achieved online.

In a distance course it can be easy to be concerned about cheating. For any type of assessment, it may be disconcerting that nothing is stopping students from looking up answers. However, if assessments ask students to apply knowledge and concepts, students will not be able to look up answers. Instead of worrying about students looking up responses, embrace it. Encourage students to look up the content necessary to answer questions, but assess and give feedback on the students’ ability to apply the content. Application asks students to think at a higher level and understand the content more thoroughly.

Lola Okolosie, in an article for The Guardian, ‘Why exclude Googling? It’s a cornerstone of life,’ addresses this issue. The key quote from the article is:

“…this isn’t about letting pupils cheat their way to success but rather how they can best apply critical understanding, doing so in a manner that complements the world we all now operate within.”

Lola makes a perfect point. The goal is to have students think critically and apply knowledge. If questions and assessments are designed with application in mind, it does not matter if students have access to Google or their textbook, in fact it could be beneficial. Students can find the baseline knowledge needed to answer questions, but they will be assessed on their ability to apply the content. Do not fight the culture and world of today, embrace it.

Read the full article from Lola.

Source
Okolosie, Lola (2015, April). ‘Why exclude Googling? It’s a cornerstone of life’. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/30/googling-in-exams-allowed-google-searches-gcse-a-level

Automated Online Learning

Technology has allowed education to reach new heights. Learners around the world now have the opportunity to learn content from experts at top universities through online education. With increased opportunity, interest continues to grow in online offerings. With the increased interest, educators can feel overwhelmed in the online classroom. Automatization of course content and assessments is an option to allow educators to focus on content creation rather then the learners themselves. Automation does have a place in online education. For necessary training that a large group needs to encounter or for a global set of content where the goal is to share the content and not interact. However, for a for-credit course offering, interaction is crucial for student success. Interaction with the content, but also with the instructor and the other learners.

Tony Bates, President and CEO of Tony Bates Associates Ltd, a private company specializing in consultancy and training in the planning and management of e-learning and distance education, recently dissected the trend towards automation in, “Automation or empowerment: online learning at the crossroads.” Three thoughts that Tony shared were:

  1. “The danger then with automation is that we drive humans to learn in ways that best suit how machines operate, and thus deny humans the potential of developing the higher levels of thinking that make humans different from machines.”
  2. “We need to start with the problem, which is how do we prepare learners for the knowledge and skills they will need in today’s society.”
  3. “This requires a constructivist approach to learning which cannot be appropriately automated, as it depends on high quality interaction between knowledge experts and learners.”

These quotes are the key. Automation of learning can be a solution, but it does not allow the interactions that complete the learning experience. Students not only are able to dive deeper into the content through interactions with the instructor and each other, but interaction is required of students throughout their lives. Interaction is a key components of online learning.

Read the full article

Source
Bates, Tony (2016, January). Automation or empowerment: online learning at the crossroads. Retrieved from http://www.tonybates.ca/2016/01/11/automation-or-empowerment-online-learning-at-the-crossroads/