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Helping Educators Thrive while Teaching Online, so They Can Help Students Develop Their Potentials and Promote Resilience and Lifelong Learning in Their Communities

Dr. Bethanie Hansen 

Strategic Educational Leader and Coach

#81: Enhancing Online Discussion Forums to Improve Student Learning

#81: Enhancing Online Discussion Forums to Improve Student Learning

Enhancing Online Discussion Forums to Improve Student Learning

This content first appeared at APUEdge.Com.

Discussion forums are where most interactions happen in the online classroom, so it’s critical that educators use this area strategically. In this episode, APU’s Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides insight into enhancing discussion forums to encourage student engagement, foster connections, exercise critical thinking skills, and offer further learning into the topic at hand. Learn how to improve discussion forums by writing open-ended questions, clearly setting expectations with students about when and how often they should participate, and more.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to today’s podcast. We’re going to talk about forum discussions. Discussions, discussion forums, they’re called a lot of things, but these are the places in the online classroom where students and faculty, peer-to-peer, peer-to-self, peer-to-content, peer-to-faculty, this is where everyone is going to speak about the content and interact. This is the main conversation space.

Forum discussions can be used as a place for pure discussion, basically it’s about the academic content. It could be a place where you have students place their graded work or they’re going to put it there and have something like a peer review. Or they’re going to post a blog and it’s got to be graded. They could be assignments posted to share and discuss before their due date, to be a draft for peer review.

They could be assignments shared after the fact just to share, say, it’s a PowerPoint presentation. And talk about concepts together. It could be a space where students teach each other. Whatever it is, forum discussions in my opinion are an optimal thing to really engage formative assessment strategies. Help students through learning and get them really engaged in the class.

Franklin D. Roosevelt said that “If a civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships.” This is a great place to do it. There are different places in the typical online classroom for these other elements. There’s usually, in a learning management system, there is an assignment space to submit essays and blogs and things like that.

There are also other tools in certain learning management systems where you can have students write a journal and submit it privately. For that reason, today I’m going to discuss only conversational elements of discussion forums. I’m going to give you a few strategies, some tips you can use, some best practices, some based on research, some based on experience and observation.

Why Should You Care About the Discussion Area?

First, every learning management system comes with a space for conversations. Many of them, and some of the older models especially, called them a forum. And a forum is a space where conversations can occur. If you change that name to discussions, it makes it even more specific to what you’re hoping to achieve in that space. A discussion is back and forth, it isn’t one person setting everyone else straight, and it is an opportunity for varying levels of engagement and participation in that discussion.

This is a great space where students can have some formative practice with learning the material that you’re teaching. It is also a place where they can have guided practice, which anyone new to the subject area is going to need, to develop their thinking, to develop their descriptive abilities for terms that are going to be used, to develop their analytical abilities, and so forth. They’re the best locations where students can try on new ideas. Try on new terms and concepts and write about them to further develop and adjust their thinking.

You should care about discussion forums not only because there’s a space to do them in an online class, but more because when you have students learning from you and from the content, you want to see the results of the learning. One of the best things we can do as educators is see the result and determine if our strategies are working. The discussion is a space where we can help nudge people in the right direction, help them explore those ideas more fully and learn from each other and us as the teacher so that we can get them to a place where they’re ready to do more.

The discussion could be excellent preparation for an assignment. For example, if you had an essay you wanted a student to do, to write about their understanding on a particular subject, that discussion the previous week could’ve been focused on the topic to explore ideas. Test them out. Apply them in a soft way. Then, in the following week, if the student writes the essay, they can be prepared because they had a chance to talk through their ideas.

General purposes of a discussion space are to foster this connection between people and give people a space to check in, converse. Most online classes are asynchronous in many universities, which means that a student goes in, participates, does their work, and leaves, and then you as the faculty member might be in that classroom at a different time.

If your courses are synchronous–meaning that they’re taking place in real time–then maybe a discussion is just a space where you might have a little follow-up conversation to whatever happens in that live space. And in that kind of situation, it makes sense that maybe the faculty member is checking on the discussion and facilitating it, but less active.

When there’s an asynchronous situation where students are to guide themselves through the learning material, through the lesson content, a more active role for the faculty member or teacher is super helpful to help the students stay on track.

In an online class, forum discussions can serve as the space where students have a voice for initial comments. Every single student has a voice. Now, if you think about your typical university lecture class, you might have one faculty member at the front of the room, lots and lots of students especially if it’s a general education class, you might have 300 students in there. Unless you give the students time to talk to each other during part of that class to discuss the ideas, many times students really don’t have a voice at all during the class. There’s this learning cycle where we take in information, we think about it, we talk about it, we write about it, and eventually we’ve formed our understanding of the content. Simply hearing it doesn’t really help us to change our ideas, be transformed by them or deeply learn things.

In the forum discussion unlike the live lecture class, you’ve got this opportunity for students to really have their own voice, have a choice about what they contribute to the dialogue. It’s a super huge benefit of online education and something that makes online learning unique and very special when you compare it to the live class with very little participation.

Now, if you’re a more active instructor and in your live classes you tend to engage people a lot, that’s normal and usual for you. I tend to do that as a strategy because of my background, but not everyone sees teaching that way, so this is the opportunity for a totally different experience that student’s going to have.

On the flip side, there are students who don’t want to participate in the discussion. They want to show up, they want to get the very minimum of what they need to do in that online class or that live class–whatever kind it is–they want to get a grade and move on. For these students that class is not a subject they particularly like, they don’t really want to learn it, they’re busy working and this is a part-time thing going to school, for whatever reason there are many students who just want to move as quickly through as possible.

But I want everyone out there to know there are also people who deeply want to learn the content. Many, in fact. It might surprise you how many students really do care and want to really understand what you’re teaching. So, this is the chance that they can contribute their ideas and they can engage with other people and they can get new insights and have a lot of different experiences. Caring about this matters because whatever attitude or perception or belief that you bring to the experience as the faculty member or the teacher, that predisposed disposition–that’s a little redundant–by your disposition about forum discussions, this is going to greatly influence the students’ experience.

It doesn’t really matter how the discussion is set up, what it’s prepared to do; if you are against doing discussions online, it’s going to be very difficult to utilize these to their full potential. Now if you really like to engage with students, love to hear what they have to say, love to challenge them and prompt them to think more deeply and share your insights, experience, and questions with them, then a forum discussion might come more naturally.

One of the ways to be most successful setting these up in your own attitude and thinking is to consider what you view the value of education, the core philosophy of what you’re doing. What you hope to accomplish by being a teacher. The big picture. Do you hope to change people’s assumptions? Do you hope to open doors for them so they can move in new directions? Do you hope to help them transform themselves as individuals? Are you trying to promote social change?

There are a lot of different roles that education can serve. Whatever your belief is about it, chances are, you’re going to find something you can really bring into that discussion in a way that’s going to be uniquely you and make a difference and really have somewhere to go with it.

The problem of online education is the lack of face-to-face, especially in asynchronous classes that don’t meet all at one time. In a synchronous class you’re still held back by this digital interface, but even then, you’re seeing people and you’re hearing them in real time. So, the problem of teaching online is partially overcome through that discussion, where we start to get to know each other, we start to dive into ideas.

Now why does that matter? If you have a disengaged student or have a lack of connection, it’s very difficult to feel like moving forward with the content. Many times, people need that connection to feel like they’re part of a school, part of a class, engaged in learning, moving forward on something. It’s going to matter to you long-term to learn how to develop discussions because these can serve you incredibly well and very soon in the online teaching side of things your interest in online teaching will increase if you will engage more fully in those discussions.

You can derive your own purpose and meaning of education and why you are a teacher from the way you participate and the way you approach your students’ participation. It can matter to your students deeply in the future because they need to connect to the concept to learn it and to move through whatever the purpose of your class is.

I have had a variety of discussions. Some of them are teacher-led forum discussions. Some of them are student-led. There have been some I’ve engaged in with courses I’ve taught online that have been group discussions, where maybe there were five or six people in the group and they were discussing or planning a project or something like that. There are a lot of different ways to set this up. I don’t propose that there is only one “right” way, but there are some guidelines that will help you be successful establishing solid discussion forums in your online teaching.

Considerations for Setting up an Online Discussion Forum

First, determine how many discussions you want to have and what is going to overload the student. There is no real perfect answer to how many discussions are optimal during an online class. If you consider how long the class is, for example, if it is a 14-, 15- or 16-week class, it would make sense to have one discussion per week. That keeps it manageable and helps students to stay focused on the topic during the week it’s happening.

If you have a shorter class, maybe you have a four-, five-, or eight-week class, this could be a little bit more difficult. It might cause you to think that you must cover a lot of topics in those discussions, and it might lead you to have many discussions going on at one time. You can either have two separate conversation spaces, two entirely different forum discussions, if you need more than one. Or you can have one discussion with the option to choose from many topics that you offer.

Again, if you approach forum discussions as a space to practice the ideas and to really manipulate them to understand them, then it does not require every student to discuss every topic, every week. Options on those topics can be very helpful.

Also, you’re going to need participation requirements. So, telling your students how often or how many times they should engage at a minimum for whatever you’re going to expect and, again, think about the topic. Will it require them to come back many times? Will it require them to give each other feedback? Will they need to come back a different day to do the feedback?

Whatever your desire is, be specific about how many times, how often during the week. And, should they have a day when their initial post is due and a different day when their peer replies are due? There’s often this idea that students are going to put an initial post in there of their ideas, and they are going to go back and respond to the ideas of their classmates.

During this whole process, of course, you can also put some initial posts to guide them. You can reply to the students just as the peers would reply, and converse just like you might in a live discussion. There are some other ideas like threaded forums, where you post that initial prompt and everyone responds along one single thread. They can be difficult to manage, they can also be interesting to see how the class unfolds along the idea. There are a lot of benefits to using what we call a threaded discussion.

There are also a lot of benefits to posting these separate discussions as individual posts students have. Whatever kind you want it to be, you want to tell students how it will unfold, how they should engage, how often.

As you design the form prompt that you put there telling students what they should write about or talk about, you want some different statements that will guide the content about what students are going to discuss. What qualities should the initial post include? How long should it be? How timely should it be? What are the directions you are going to include for sharing content and source materials? Will students need to refer to a source that they may have used in the form discussion? If so, can they give you a link? Can they simply mention it? Do they need to give you an actual formatted citation in MLA (Modern Languages Association), Chicago or Turabian or APA style?

Whatever those different details are, be specific with each forum that you post. And yes, I do advocate being repetitive on that part, including every week what the posting guidelines are. Keeping them fairly consistent can help students to engage better.

If you want your students to post in the normal font that appears, just remind them of that. You can also suggest that they use the spell check or grammar check. If you do use word counts for your forums, and if your learning management system does not give you a way to naturally do that, you can also suggest they type their forum in Microsoft Word, copy and paste it into the forum afterwards.

As you’re developing the prompt for the discussion, think about the qualities that students need to provide, whether they’re going to specifically give their take-away, their reflection, what they need to include in terms of the dialogue they’re sharing, and if they should ask each other questions. This can be a helpful way to get the discussion going. I have a little checklist that I’m going to share with you now that has six different elements and it comes from a book I wrote called “Teaching Music Appreciation Online,” (page 119), if you have a copy of that.

And this form prompt quality checklist is just to determine: Does the form prompt have the elements needed to help students know what to do and have the best chance of engaging well?

  1. The first question is, “does your forum prompt include a specific active verb indicating the action students will take developing their initial post in the discussion?” And some active verbs might be: define, describe, identify, compare, contrast, explain, summarize, apply, predict, classify, analyze, evaluate, critique, create, and design.
  2. Second question, “if guiding questions are included, are they written as open-ended questions that allow students to exercise critical thinking to create, to explore and otherwise apply their learning?” For example, does the question you have given students use the words “how” or “why,” and avoid closed ended yes/no questions, like did, do, where, or who? Closed ended questions make it very difficult to have a discussion, and most students will copy each other. There are only a few responses possible, so open-ended questions are much more useful, like “what,” “how,” and “why.”
  3. “Does the forum prompt specifically guide students to the content, concepts, topic and other elements to be included in their initial post?”
  4. “Does the form prompt state how many details or sources or what link is to be included in the student’s initial post?”
  5. “Does the forum prompt appear appropriate for the level of the course that you’re teaching?” For example, if you’re teaching a college level course at a 100 level, does the prompt address general elements and then draw students into deeper thinking. And at the 400 college-level does it identify complex ideas and analyses and different types of application you would want at that level?
  6. And lastly, “are clear posting instructions included, such as the due date for the initial post, the number of replies and the due date for those replies, and any other pertinent requirements?”

Think about these as you write forum prompts and examine the forum prompts that exist. If you’re teaching a standardized course. And as you’re looking at the forum prompt, if you’re teaching a course someone else has designed, it’s very easy to change the wording slightly to make it even more effective. And if you’re at a university where there’s some collaboration or the chance to improve the course, you can also suggest those changes to the course designer or the faculty member who has initially organized that class.

So open-ended questions can invite a lot more thought.

The last point I am going to share today is about how students should bring in their own ideas, reflections, opinions, and experiences. There are a lot of subjects where we’re working very hard to help students argue and analyze without opinion. In those subjects, I would suggest separating out the personal reflection, opinions, and experiences part to a second half of the forum post. Maybe you’re going to have them analyze and argue a point, and then come back and share their reflection about it or their opinion about it.

One reason I’m heavy on personal reflection, opinions and experiences is that these are the ways students personalize their learning, and this is what helps them to make something new out of it for themselves. It creates connections in the brain and soon the student’s going to care a lot about the subject, or at least have opinions on it and be able to think about it later. So those personal reflection elements are critical.

In future podcast episodes, I will discuss ways to apply critical thinking, interpretation, problem-solving, persuasion, and analysis, debates, and different topics so I hope you will join me again in the future for additional thoughts about discussion forums online.

Until then, I wish you all the best in starting your discussions, engaging with your students, and creating form prompts that really work for you. Best wishes teaching online this week.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.

#79: Three Steps to Stress-Free Online Teaching

#79: Three Steps to Stress-Free Online Teaching

Three Steps to Stress-Free Online Teaching Using Productivity Tools

This content first appeared at APUEdge.com.

Teaching online can bring stress in managing competing commitments, diverse teaching tasks, and multiple modalities. To free online educators from overwhelm and stress, productivity strategies provide structure to the work. In this episode, APU professor Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares three productivity tools that include a prioritization matrix, task batching, and time boxing to help online educators structure their work and keep time investment within limits. Learn how to simplify your approach to the daily work of teaching online and feel a sense of relief by reducing your stress.

#78: Simplify Your Online Teaching with a Learning Framework

#78: Simplify Your Online Teaching with a Learning Framework

Simplify Your Online Teaching with Learning Frameworks

This content first appeared at APUEdge.com.

Teaching online and developing online courses can be an overwhelming process without limits. Frameworks can keep these processes clear and reduce stress for the online educator. In this episode, APU professor Dr. Bethanie Hansen shares frameworks that help online educators provide quality learning experiences for their students, include a variety of approaches and strategies, and reduce stress through a structured approach.

Listen to the Episode:

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge
Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | Pandora

Read the Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun. Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m Bethanie Hansen, your host. And I’m here to talk to you today about how to simplify your online teaching.

You know when you’re writing a course, preparing to teach a course, or thinking about that class you’re going to prepare, it can be very complex. There is so much we could include that we want to teach our students, and there are of course many ways to approach designing a class or planning what you’re going to teach. How do you make those decisions?

One of the ways you can make the decisions about what you’ll include in the course, what you’ll teach your students, and what you can expect them to do and be learning in the class as well as what they can demonstrate afterward, is to use a framework.

One of the frameworks I really like that I want to start out with sharing with you today is Bloom’s taxonomy. If you’re not familiar with Bloom’s taxonomy, this is a framework that allows you to use different skill levels. Originally it was designed by some graduate students and Bloom, who put together this taxonomy as a framework to create banks of test questions with specific objectives to share. Those original three domains in Bloom’s taxonomy were the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective domains.

The cognitive domain is the one that we think about the most. What kind of thinking skills we need to be able to do in our courses there. There were six levels from the low to the high side of ordered thinking; that has been revised in 2001 and updated, and we’ve got several different areas.

So that the lowest level of Bloom’s taxonomy is remembering. This would be your basic factual recall where students are going to true or false, multiple-choice. They’re just going to regurgitate information and they are remembering what they learned basically.

The second level of Bloom’s taxonomy is understanding. In this level students actually determine the meaning of what they’re learning. It could be something oral, written, or graphic. And so in all these different modalities they are demonstrating some kind of understanding. Putting the pieces together. Connecting the dots.

The third level is applying. And in applying, students are going to carry out a procedure. Perhaps the use of evaluative tool to check off whether or not something can be used, something is going to be played out in a scenario, we are going to role-play, something like that. Applying can be a lot of fun and gets you away from the basic low-level factual thinking.

The fourth level is analyzing. When you’re analyzing, you can break the material down into little parts. Detect how the parts relate to each other and to an overall structure or purpose. Analyzing is definitely a higher order skill and analyzing is what we do in so many career fields. So this level is important to reach in our teaching.

The fifth level is evaluating. Students can make judgment based on criteria or standards.

And lastly is creating. This is of course the highest order. The students are to put things together to form something new. A complete whole. Or make something original. We love this in the various fields that we teach. When we’re creating or having students create something new it’s also more original. It’s not going to be as likely to hit the plagiarism spectrum. So things that hit the creating level of thinking are especially good.

Now when you’re writing your class and you are thinking about what you teach and how you teach it, Bloom’s taxonomy is a framework you can use from the beginning to the end of the course. When I say that, I’m suggesting that early in the course you hit those lower levels of thinking: remembering and understanding.

If you think about having students demonstrate remembering and demonstrate understanding, even open-book tests are helpful. Open book, small grade, low consequence, or low-stake quizzes can be especially effective to the remembering phase of learning. This is basic. If students cannot remember what they’re learning, they are not going to get very far.

Now once you get a little further into the course, applying and analyzing can happen more regularly because we’ve got the basic understanding down. And now we can move to the next level of thinking. And then of course, as you move into the higher levels of the subject matter and later in the courses, you’re going to have opportunities for evaluating and creating a lot more often. These are good things to remember when you’re thinking about designing a course or teaching specific content.

By the time you’re done with the course, if you look at your course learning outcomes and the way they hit Bloom’s taxonomy, some examples might be that at the basic level students will identify certain concepts, they might analyze the outcomes of certain historical situations, they might design a controlled experiment or design a case study. In this case, they are now creating. That is something we do very late in the course. They might present. They might share their research. They might collect and analyze the research. They might describe and discuss and synthesize the theories of various ideas.

If you’ll take a look at Bloom’s taxonomy it will help you to have a basic starting point for the different levels of knowledge. Learning. And can also help you make your discussions a little deeper.

Some faculty have real trouble designing forum discussions at first, because it seems that we want to stick to that factual or understanding level. The more you can add applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating, the more you’re going to have opportunities to get your students to think more deeply and demonstrate that they’re connecting the dots in higher ways.

The Yale Center for Teaching and Learning offers us several suggestions for using Bloom’s taxonomy. First, they suggest using it to write the intended learning outcomes for your class and for your assignments. This also works especially well if you’re using the backwards design technique. Secondly you can use Bloom’s taxonomy to design the activities and assessments. This will help you align things to your intended learning outcomes. Third, you can consider additional taxonomies that will help you develop learning at various levels. You might consider, they recommend, Marzano’s taxonomy and there’s also Krathwhol’s. I’ve got a link in the podcast transcript notes for the Bloom’s taxonomy download that Yale shares with the world, so check it out.

Student-Centric and Process-Oriented Frameworks

Now, aside from Bloom’s and other taxonomies that help you to think about the different levels of thinking that will be required of students, there are different kinds of teaching and learning frameworks. These are research-informed models that help you either design your course or consider learning goals and how you’ll layout the class and teach it.

Some of these models are really focused on the student. They are student-centric. They help you to create motivating and inclusive environments and integrate all kinds of assessment into the learning process along the way. One of those I’ve mentioned already is backwards design. If you are going to use the backwards design framework, this was made popular by Wiggins and McTeague in their book Understanding by Design (2005), the backward design process is three main parts.

First, you’re going to decide what you want students to do at the end of the class, or we call this “identify desired results.” Second, you’ll design the assessments. You will determine what evidence will really show that they have learned this. And only after these two things have been completed, then you’re going to back up and plan the learning experiences they will need to have to get there and the instruction you’ll need to provide as the instructor. This is the kind of learning that I like to guide, backwards design. I like to start with the end goals and then determine what kinds of activities will help students get to those goals. It’s also what I wrote about in my book “Teaching Music Appreciation Online,” which I hope you’ll check out.

There’s also another method which is called integrated course design, Integrated course design was developed by LD Fink in 2003, and it’s a sort of expanded backwards design. It is sort of an expanded backwards design framework that has a little bit more detail specific to higher ed. The main feature of integrated course design is that it’s a simultaneous planning strategy.

You don’t have to sequentially start at the end and move backwards. You can think about environmental and contextual factors as well. This means first, think of your situation and then you’re going to look at the integration between learning goals, feedback, and assessment, and teaching and learning activities, and you’re going to keep moving between those until you’ve planned the course.

Part of the methodology is that it is simultaneous so it sort of a holistic approach for those of you who really like to think big-picture. It also guides you through a 12-step process to create outline your learning outcomes, the activities, rubrics, assessments, and the syllabus, in light of whatever context you’re in and the challenges you might be facing.

A third framework you might consider is 5E. This model was developed by a biological sciences curriculum study in 2001. This is an interesting model that seems to go round and round, and it’s about “engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate.” And evaluate is really happening all along the way during the engage section, the explorer section, the explain section, and the elaborate section. At the end of the class students are going to assess their own understanding and the instructor might also evaluate the learners on key skills or concepts.

This model is super good if you’re interested in scaffolding and prioritizing student learning rather than just what you believe needs to be taught. It’s got a lot of flexibility and it’s an interesting one to check out.

Another framework for learning is accelerated learning cycle developed by Alastair Smith in 1996. And, a lot like the 5E model, it can be used to structure single class sessions. So accelerated learning comes from Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences and it builds classrooms that acknowledge prior knowledge and learning habits.

This model is based on stages. You create the safe, welcoming environment. You build on the background knowledge of your learners to create a bigger context, and you describe what’s intended to be learned. Then you give some new information or content, facilitate an activity, enable discussion or a demonstration, or some kind engagement, and then you review and reinforce the information. So of course you do that for single classes and you can also think about it on the big scale of how the whole class is set up.

Another framework you might consider is called universal design for learning (UDL). This was developed in the 1990s as a model for meeting the needs of all learners, diverse learners of all kinds, and it can be applied to a course or a single class session, just as the accelerated learning cycle as well. So UDL operates under three principles.

The first one is the “why” of learning. You provide multiple means of engagement. And then the “what” of learning. You provide multiple means of representation. And lastly the “how” of learning, which is that you provide multiple means of action and expression.

The idea is that you’re going to be engaging different parts of the brain. Engagement, the representation, and the action and expression each hit these three different big chunks of the brain. They’re going to help people engage fully, deeply, and really reach people that think in different ways, learn in different ways, need visual, auditory, and all those different modalities, and designed to be flexible so that depending on the learner there are choices where you can balance the needs of the learner and give appropriate challenge and support.

Where to Start with Teaching and Learning Frameworks

One of the tips that I have for you today as we wrap up this discussion about learning frameworks is that using a framework can make planning your online teaching a lot easier. When you use a framework, that helps you to keep things within limits. It gives you structure for what you’re doing, and it helps you stop getting overwhelmed by all that you could do. I’ve seen some brilliant instructors design entire classes with one modality and one approach, missing a high number of learners. If we use a framework, we are more likely to integrate various approaches, because the framework suggests them. (See, for example, Frameworks for Digital Information Literacy.)

One of the bonuses of doing this is that using a framework is going to help make sure you don’t miss a lot of students. It’s also going to help you consider relevance. Some of these frameworks work for some subjects and styles, and some work better for others.

As you’re looking over frameworks and thinking about which one might suit you, consider which one really does suit the subject matter. This is not a one-size-fits-all experience. Then, create a course alignment map. As you design a map of what you’d like to teach, what you would like to assess, what students need to learn, what their prior knowledge is, it’s going to suggest to you perhaps one of these frameworks might fit a little bit better. It’s also going to give you insight into the variety that you need to include, both in terms of what and how you’re teaching, and also the different levels of thinking from Bloom’s taxonomy and other taxonomies I’ve mentioned.

Lastly, think about inventorying your practices. We can get stuck in teaching and learning through one channel or one avenue. The more we broaden our practices to include a lot of different approaches, the more we really are going to meet students needs in the best ways possible. So think about not only how you can use frameworks and taxonomies in planning your course to make it a simpler, less overwhelming project, but also how you can inventory yourself and what you’re bringing to that teaching. There’s always room to grow. But when you create an inventory for your own teaching and course design, you can just target one thing at a time and keep your own development simple as well.

Thank you for being with me today. I hope you consider using a teaching and learning framework, or taxonomy at the very least, in your teaching, and I wish you all the best this coming week in your online teaching.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge Podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey.