Best Practices for Online Learning Objects
Numerous articles discuss and suggest good principles of design for online modules. Many of the suggestions in the articles reinforce a constructivist pedagogical approach.
In “Transporting Good Library Instruction Practices into the Web Environment: An Analysis of Online Tutorials,” Dewald suggest that there are seven key principles for good design for online, asynchronous instruction. These include:
- instruction being course related
- integration of active learning
- integration of collaborative learning
- information should be offered in more than one format (aural and visual) to appeal to numerous learning types
- should contain clear educational objectives
- should teach concepts, not just mechanics
Additionally, those using the online module should have the ability to ask for additional assistance. In this study, the author evaluated twenty online tutorials, and noted that most did not integrate all features.
Halpern and Tucker, in their article, “Leveraging Adult Learning Theory with Online Tutorials.”, state that modules should:
- contain adult centered tasks which focus on a problem
- should be delivered at point of need, with highly relevant to a task, such as an assignment
- should open with a story to help frame the concept covered as narrative building
- should make clear to the student why they are learning something
The authors suggest that the modules should:
- contain appropriately complex problems so that students can develop necessary skills and meet learning objectives
- have students complete exercises in order to test whether skill sets have been developed. as adult centered instruction acknowledges the learner’s prior experience, skills taught should build on previous skills
- as self-direction in the online environment is very important it is helpful to not have any part required
- have an easy to navigate menu is essential.
In “Creating, Sharing and Reusing Learning Objects to Enhance Information Literacy,” Russell provides an overview of creation of reusable learning objects at Institute of Technology Tallaght, Dublin. The author argues that many issues need to be considered when designing online modules including
- signaling learning intent
- student interaction
- appropriate evaluative mechanisms
Additionally, the author also recommends that modules:
- must conform to sound pedagogical principles, including constructivism
- must have clear objectives and outcomes
- use standards to guide development (ACRL)
- use effective communication
Additionally, Russell argues that embedding an online learning object can encourage deep engagement, and refers to diversity in learning and the use of VARK, which includes using a visual, auditory, and textual approach to instruction. Other suggestions by Russell include:
- Inclusion of active learning: tutorials should offer a hands on component, and should use quizzes to consolidate understanding.
- Using tutorials just prior to completion of research assignment (point of need) motivates students to learn.
- Deciding to create the modules from scratch is useful because it gives ability to brand, and gives an opportunity for staff members to develop skills.
- There should be a clear progression from simpler to more complex tasks.
- A clear, indicative set of learning outcomes should be included for each module.
- Include detailed storyboarding to ensure good planning and flow.
- Incorporate an educational theory in order to frame the module in a specific direction. In this case, the author was influenced by Gagne’s Nine Key Instructional Events: Gaining Learner’s attention, informing of objectives, stimulating recall, highlighting features, structure learning, encouraging activity, providing feedback, assessing performance, enhancing retention and transfer.
- Embed modules in courseware if possible as this can assist in summative and formative assessment, because progress can be tracked. If this approach is taken, it can also be included in a blended learning model.