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Online Teaching & Learning

This guide was created in partnership with The Centre for Teaching and Learning & Library and Learning Services.

Welcome

The focus of this guide is in response to this unprecedented time in history, and aims to offer a way forward for faculty as we transition courses fully online. This Online Learning and Teaching guide, which has been created through a collaborative partnership between The Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and Library Learning Services (LLS) offers the tools, practices, and examples to support and inspire an online approach that is both relevant and relational for our learners at Sheridan.

We encourage faculty to pick and choose what resonates with them and makes the most sense for their disciplinary context and their approaches to teaching and learning.

Online learning is an educational experience that is mediated in whole or in part by web-based platforms, tools, and devices (Bates, 2016). In fact, much of the learning that we do every day is moderated through technology (i.e. our use of smart phones, tablets, laptops and computers to work, to access information for work or for interest and to communicate with others or to occupy our time during leisure periods). We are constantly learning from online sources and we are all being shaped by online learning experiences (whether we realize it or not).

Although we have all experienced online learning, we may not have thought about how to create those learning experiences, and we may not have had great experiences of online learning. Many if not most of us as Sheridan faculty, however, have considered and experienced first-hand what learning looks like and feels like in a classroom. Building from these classroom practices and pedagogies, we've highlighted Learner-Centered Principles for Higher Education (Kenny, 2013) as the organizing framework for this guide since these principles have broad applicability to all teaching and learning contexts and milieus (including classroom, hybrid, and online). These Learner-Centered Principles for Teaching are:

Actively Engage Learners

Demonstrate Empathy and Respect

Communicate Clear Expectations

Encourage Student Independence

Create a Teaching and Learning Community

Use Appropriate Assessment Methods

Commit to Continuous Improvement

Further reading:

Take a moment and think about who your learners are, and what some of the unique challenges they might be facing during this unprecedented global phenomenon:

  • Learners may be juggling childcare and schoolwork because of school closures
  • Learners may not have regular access to the internet because they don’t have access at Sheridan, or because of library closures
  • Learners may be in precarious financial situations because of changing work environments
  • Learners may be experiencing high levels of stress and/or anxiety
  • Learners may be facing health issues

While it might feel like it is the ideal choice to connect with your learners in a synchronous way (like you do during your face-to-face class time), asynchronous learning (learning that allows learners to do the learning at their own pace and at their convenience) may provide learners with more flexibility, the kind of flexibility that allows them to manage competing demands on their time.

Center for Teaching Excellence at University of Waterloo explained some advantages and disadvantages to consider when choosing synchronous vs. asynchronous design and delivery.

Further reading:
Going Online in a Hurry: What to Do and Where to Start
Brave New COVID-19 World of Online Classes

CTL Logo

A collaborative work with CTL

Online learning is often misunderstood as a set of practices enacted within the confines of a learning management system or other platform. In fact, online learning (and teaching) is as much a matter of critical attention to building relationships, and questioning and creating practice as traditional classroom pedagogy.

Learner-Centered Principles for Higher Education

Getting Started with your Online Course (Re)Design

What is a learning outcome?

A Learning Outcome (LO) is a statement that outlines what learners are expected to know, do, and value by the end of a learning experience. More specifically, the learning outcome statements in your course address intended or desired results, namely the KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS, and VALUES that learners might acquire and/or enhance as a result of participating in a unit of instruction (lesson, module, unit, course, program, etc.).

A learning outcome can be deconstructed into the following parts as the diagram showed on the left.

Characteristics of Learning Outcomes

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Learning outcomes focus on both the application and integration of knowledge, skills, and values acquired in a particular unit of instruction (e.g. activity, module, course, program, etc.), and emerge from a process of reflection on the essential contents of a learning experience. Learning outcomes should be clear, specific, actionable, and measurable.

  • Are very specific, and use active language – and verbs in particular – that make expectations clear.
  • Are focused on the learner: rather than explaining what the facilitator will do, good learning outcomes describe knowledge, skills, or values that the student will employ, and help the learner understand why that knowledge and those skills are useful and valuable to their personal, professional, and academic future.
  • Are realistic and attainable, not aspirational: all learners should be able to demonstrate the knowledge or skill described by the learning outcome at the conclusion of the learning experience.
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives is particularly useful because it associates particular verbs with each level of learning. Although Bloom’s Taxonomy is a hierarchy, each type of learning can be a valuable aspect of a learning experience.
Vague outcome More precise outcome

By the end of this learning experience, students will be able to increase their organization, writing, and presentation skills.

By the end of this learning experience, students will know what to do in a crisis when they are studying abroad

By the end of this learning experience, students will be able to organize the outline of a research paper in their discipline.

By the end of this learning experience, students will be able to apply Sheridan’s policies and procedures for safety abroad in different situational case studies. 

Action Verbs for Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy

Below is a table based on Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy that lists learning verbs that you might find in your Learning Outcome (LO) statements. These verbs are intentionally used to indicate different levels of learning and are meant to be helpful to you as you think about appropriate alignment of your LOs with both activities and assessments in your online courses. 

Level Level Definition and Attributes Action Verbs
Level One: Remember Learners are able to exhibit memory of previously learned materials by recalling facts, terms, basic concepts and answers. arrange, define, describe, duplicate, identify, label, list, match, memorize, name, order, outline, recognize, relate, recall, repeat, reproduce, select, state
Level Two: Comprehension Learners are able to demonstrate understanding of facts and ideas by interpreting, exemplifying, classifying, summarizing, inferring, comparing and explaining main ideas. classify, convert, defend, discuss, distinguish, estimate, explain, express, extend, generalize, give example(s), identify, indicate, infer, locate, paraphrase, predict, recognize, rewrite, report, restate, review, select, summarize, translate
Level Three: Apply Learners are able to solve problems in new situations by applying acquired knowledge, facts, techniques, and rules in a different way. apply, change, choose, compute, demonstrate, discover, dramatize, employ, illustrate, interpret, manipulate, modify, operate, practice, predict, prepare, produce, relate schedule, show, sketch, solve, use write
Level Four: Analyze Learners are able to examine and break information into parts by identifying motives, causes and relationships. They can make inferences and find evidence to support generalization. analyze, appraise, breakdown, calculate, categorize, classify, compare, contrast, criticize, derive, diagram, differentiate, discriminate, distinguish, examine, experiment, identify, illustrate, infer, interpret, model, outline, point out, question, relate, select, separate, subdivide, test
Level Five: Evaluate Learners are able to present and defend opinions by making judgement about information, validity of ideas, or quality of work based on a set of criteria. They can justify a decision or course of action. arrange, assemble, categorize, collect, combine, comply, compose, construct, create, design, develop, devise, explain, formulate, generate, plan, prepare, propose, rearrange, reconstruct, relate, reorganize, revise, rewrite, set up, summarize, synthesize, tell, write
Level Six: Create Learners are able to compile, generate or view information, ideas or products together in a different way by combining in a new pattern or by proposing alternative solutions. appraise, argue, assess, attach, choose, compare, conclude, contrast, defend, describe, discriminate, estimate, evaluate, explain, judge, justify, interpret, relate, predict, rate, select, summarize, support, value

When designing an online learning experience, it is considered a good practice to begin with the end in mind. Starting with your Course Level Learning Outcomes (LOs), ask yourself: 

What are the course learning outcomes? How many outcomes are learners expected to achieve in this course? What level of learning is expected with each learning outcome? What are learners expected to know, do, and value by the end of the online learning experience?

By using backward design, and understanding our LOs, we can identify and design the intended learning journey in the online environment. 

Use assessments that align to learning outcomes and work well in an online environment.

Aligning the learning outcomes from the learning experience that you are creating with assessment strategies will give you the opportunity to check that your learners are accomplishing the learning outcomes.

Learning Outcomes Assessment Strategies
Identify... Post photographs, complete a quiz
Describe... Describe those photographs
Analyze... Relate a theory to a real world scenario
Create... Build a model
Synthesize... Write a photo essay, assign meaning to the photographs

Using a variety of assessment techniques throughout the online learning experience will provide you with the best picture of what your students are actually learning. While there is no rule about what works best, and different subject matters call for different types of assessments, the following are some generalized methods that work well in an online environment (adapted from Palloff and Pratt, 2010).

  • Performance assessments: learners develop a product such as a blog or wiki
  • Authentic assessments: learners complete work under the same conditions that they would in the real world
  • Portfolio assessments: learners demonstrate progress over time by showcasing artifacts and reflecting on their learning
  • Computer generated and scored tests and quizzes: allow for banks of questions, randomization and, in some cases, instant feedback

Plan activities that connect to the assessments, align with learning outcomes, and work effectively in an online context

Aligning the learning activities from the learning experience that you are creating with assessment strategies will give you the opportunity to successfully prepare learners to achieve the LOs through their completion of assignments and final evaluations. 

Learning Outcomes Instructional Strategies
Identify... Through labelling different types of photos shared in a collaborative document
Describe... By characterizing photos in writing, video, or audio clips as part of a virtual art gallery
Analyze... Different theoretical perspectives in a discussion forum
Create... A musical composition using notation software
Synthesize... An answer to an open-ended problem using a data set provided

Kenny, N. (2013, December 7). Learner-centred principles for teaching in higher education [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://natashakenny.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/learner-centred-principles-for-teaching-in-higher-education/

Palloff, R., & Pratt, K. (2010). Assessing the online learner resources and strategies for faculty. Continuing to Engage the Online Learner, Rita-Marie Conrad, J. Ana Donaldson Seawell, Jeanne. Firth, Karen. Colvin, Martha. Online Assessment Strategies A Primer. Journal of Online Teaching and Learning 6(1).