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Creating online learning experiences that learners will value

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Most learners in post-compulsory settings now have an online component to their learning, whether they are taking a course wholly online, accessing online components, or undertaking online tasks and interactions within a more conventional syllabus. As they move through the education system towards independent and lifelong learning, learners are ever more likely to find themselves studying online. Online learners are not, then, a distinct group of learners: they are post-compulsory learners in particular situations, and with particular preferences and needs.


A 2014 survey and consultation found that most online provision in the UK is at masters and professional level. Few universities are offering online opportunities as standard across their undergraduate programmes. Although the FELTAG agenda means that more FE courses now have an online study component, across both sectors there is a lack of experience in designing and delivering online, especially among mainstream teaching staff. The consultation process concluded that teaching staff need an injection of skills and confidence, along with strategic support, mentoring/development, and platforms for professional sharing.


As part of the Scaling Up Online Learning challenge, we have produced a range of resources on Curriculum Design and Support for Online Learning. These bring together best-in-sector case studies with ideas from an extensive literature review and consultation. They cover the relevant pedagogic models and theories, open and borderless classrooms, online collaboration, game-based learning, online assessment and feedback, and delivering effective content resources online.


As well as introducing these resources this presentation reports on findings from a study into the experiences of online learners, funded as part of the ongoing Jisc Digital Student project. These findings add depth to our understanding of effective online activities and courses. Like all learners, online learners need to feel supported across their whole learning experience, and recognised in their particular needs. They may want to belong to a cohort or to develop better habits of independent study. They may be keen to build a public profile of their achievements, or to practice new skills in a safe and closed environment. They will certainly want to learn in ways that are engaging, that give them a sense of belonging, and that enhance their life chances. These findings suggest a focus on the whole learning experience online, from registration through to recognising and recording achievements.

This presentation provides new resources for designing online learning, and new ideas for engaging with online learners to enhance their experiences.

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Creating online learning experiences that learners will value

  1. 1. Creating online learning experiences that learners will value Lou McGill, Helen Beetham, Heather Price, Sarah Knight Image attributed to Flickr user: wocintech stock - 127 07/09/2016
  2. 2. What do we mean by ‘online learning’? » Most learners will experience some online component to their learning: as they move into lifelong learning/professional development, this component will probably become more significant » Online learners are not a distinct group of learners: they are any and all learners in situations where online resources, networks and interactions are significant to their learning » For some learners, in some situations, ‘online’ is the strongly preferred or only available space of learning » For most learners, ‘online’ is an adjunct space of learning which intersects with offline learning at many points Our assumptions: 07/09/2016 Creating online learning experiences that learners will value 2
  3. 3. What is the challenge? » Online learning is seen by universities and colleges as a key opportunity for development » Most organisations do not feel fully equipped to exploit the opportunities. eg with strategic vision, mainstream processes, and confident teaching staff » There are challenges in scaling up online learning from development projects and flagship courses to mainstream provision » The online learning experience is still not fully understood 07/09/2016 Creating online learning experiences that learners will value 3 Image attributed to Flickr user: wocintech stock - 47 Consultations by Jisc during 2014-16 found that:
  4. 4. Background: Scaling up online learning Worked with the UK academic community to understand the barriers stopping institutions from adopting more online learning and find the best solutions to address those problems. jisc.ac.uk/rd/projects/scaling-up-online-learning JiscScaling up online learning project (2014-16) 07/09/2016 Creating online learning experiences that learners will value 4 Image source: flickr.com/photos/yodelanecdotal/4092671749
  5. 5. Background: Experiences of online learners Part of a wider project Jisc ‘Digital Student’ project investigating students expectations and experiences of the digital environment (2014-present): » Higher Education (HE) study http://ji.sc/Digital_Student_Expectations » Further Education (FE) study http://ji.sc/Digital_Students_Expectations_FE » Skills study http://ji.sc/Digital_Student_Skills » Pilot of a digital student experience tracker tool jisc.ac.uk/rd/projects/student-digital-experience-tracker 07/09/2016 Creating online learning experiences that learners will value 5
  6. 6. Findings from the online learners study » Extensive literature review (over 260 refs) » Expert advisory group » Consultation (#OLsuccess week + others) Based on: 07/09/2016 Creating online learning experiences that learners will value 6 1. What are successful online learners like? 2. What do successful online learners do? 3. How do successful online learners feel about learning online? 4. What differences among online learners are significant to their success? 5. How can providers and teachers/facilitators support online learners’ success? To answer to our key questions: Lou McGill, Helen Beetham andTim Gray
  7. 7. Key points 07/09/2016 Creating online learning experiences that learners will value 7 » Online learners are highly diverse: key differences include prior learning, self-efficacy and self-regulation, confidence, motivation » Many continuities between online and offline learning » Contexts and motivations for online learning vary across life stages » Complex relationship of motivation to success: learners see them through the same lens » 'Readiness to learn online' a consistently used but contested metric: providers devising one-off instruments with little evidence base » Emotional responses significant to success: curiosity, confidence, independence and pleasure; vs boredom, frustration, loneliness
  8. 8. Finding: How do you prefer to use online resources? Slightly more of our participants preferred to use recommended resources than to find resources online for themselves: the preference would almost certainly have been stronger with a less confident and experienced group of learners. Find myself Use recommended 07/09/2016 Creating online learning experiences that learners will value 8 46%54%
  9. 9. Finding: How do you like to use your social media? Our participants were fairly evenly split between using their social media informally for learning, using it as a core/essential element of their learning, and keeping it quite separate from their learning, with informal use marginally the more popular. Essential Informal Keep separate Don't use 07/09/2016 Creating online learning experiences that learners will value 9 29% 31% 35% 6%
  10. 10. Recommendations to online teachers 07/09/2016 Creating online learning experiences that learners will value 10 » Teach responsively, with consideration to learners’ different: motivations, interests, learning histories and resources » Prepare online learners to study online: norms, practices, expectations, good study habits, functional access » Enable learners to use their own devices, services and skills » Support access to rich and diverse learning content » Provide a digital environment that is accessible, social and personalisable: open (for some learners); secure (for others) » Address the barriers to success we have identified for specific groups of learners » More detail in our report ‘What makes a successful online learner?’ http://ji.sc/onlinesurveyreport
  11. 11. What next? Online learners experience tracker 07/09/2016 Creating online learning experiences that learners will value 11 Following the successful pilot of the Jisc Learner digital experience tracker … » We are producing a version of the tracker specifically for online learners » Guidance will accompany the tracker to encourage engagement with online learners about their experiences and expectations Image source: flickr.com/photos/yodelanecdotal/4092671749
  12. 12. Solutions: Scaling up online learning 07/09/2016 Creating online learning experiences that learners will value 12 We have produced a series of guides and associated checklists to help staff understand the decisions that need to be made and the processes involved around scaling up online learning at an organisational level: » Scaling up online learning jisc.ac.uk/guides/scaling-up-online-learning » Curriculum design and support jisc.ac.uk/guides/curriculum-design-and-support-for-online- learning » Technology and tools for online learning jisc.ac.uk/full-guide/technology-and-tools-for-online- learning Image source: flickr.com/photos/yodelanecdotal/4092671749
  13. 13. Online learning readiness tool Takes you through key questions to help identify your personal or teams readiness for creating, delivering or supporting online learning. https://onlineready.jisc.ac.uk Our Online learning readiness tool 07/09/2016 Creating online learning experiences that learners will value 13 Help us to understand how you use our beta Online learning readiness tool and your user experience by completing our online evaluation form: http://ji.sc/learningtoolfeedback Get involved!

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