By AP Dr Nantha Kumar Subramaniam, Head of the Centre for Learning Technology
Up until the Covid-19 pandemic, Open University Malaysia had employed the blended learning approach that straddled face-to-face learning in the physical classroom, online learning, and self-managed learning. The pandemic put paid to the face-to-face sessions. In cases, it gave rise to problems and stress especially for learners taking technical courses such as programming. This is unsurprising as many learners are of the view that technical courses are best learned in class via active interaction with their peers and instructor. For them, the suspension of face-to-face interactions also removes any sense of community they may have forged and depended on.
As educators, we are fully aware of the benefits of instructor-led face-to-face learning. But we are also adept at thinking on our feet when faced with unexpected challenges, of which the pandemic is a prime example. Given the suspension of face-to-face interactions, academics around the world have stepped up to adjust and experiment with different ways of making online teaching and learning work, even as we fully acknowledge the challenges faced.
On my part, to make up for the suspended face-toface sessions, I decided to create instructional videos for a programming course offered to learners taking the Bachelor of Information Technology programme. I capitalised on videos because they are well recognised as an indispensible tool for teaching and learning.
I have also learned, however, that merely providing videos to learners may not yield the expected results, especially for a technical subject such as programming that demands a higher cognitive load from the learners. A more strategic effort was needed, I felt. For that reason, I decided to adopt an active learning approach that encourages learners to engage and interact with the instructional videos in order to solve given problems that are aligned with the course learning outcomes. In
As educators, we are fully aware of the benefits of instructorled face-to-face learning. But we are also adept at thinking on our feet when faced with unexpected challenges, of which the pandemic is a prime example.
In this active learning approach, learners will watch a segment of the video before they are given a set of activities to perform. These activities will need to be completed successfully before learners are able to proceed to the next video segment. If they fail to carry out the tasks successfully, they will have to repeat the previous steps.
The instructional videos themselves provide an immersive learning environment that invites active participation from the learners. They come equipped with direct links to external immersive contents that provide opportunities for extended learning. In addition, the videos pose thought-provoking self-reflective questions that require learners to respond to and share with their peers in a Whatsapp discussion group that I created especially for the course. Learners may access the discussion group via a dedicated QR code embedded in the video. Through these interlinked activities that are carried out across devices, learners are also able to effectively create a sense of community that face-to-face interactions used to offer.
To cap off the lesson, learners will each produce a reflective report that answers three conceptual questions. As instructor, I will then consolidate their reflections and create a “wisdom tree” in the learning management system (LMS) that hosts the programming course. The main idea behind the “wisdom tree” concept is to allow the students to learn something from everyone and, in doing so, participate in community-building in the online learning environment. From the survey I conducted, and from the pre- and post-test administered, I found that the learners who took the course not only appreciated the active learning approach, they also managed to obtain a good understanding of the concepts covered.
The instructional videos I used in the programming course are relatively easy to develop. The approach can easily be replicated for any course. To simplify the steps, the instructor could always use videos freely available on such online platforms as YouTube. Ideal videos are those released under an open licence that permits no-cost access use, adaptation and redistribution. To make these videos more interactive and engaging, the instructor may use the HTML5 package, also known as H5P, to create rich and interactive web experiences. Furthermore, H5P solutions in the videos may be linked through QR codes. QR code generators are freely available online. As well, the instructor may use Genially, an online tool, to create immersive and interactive contents that can be linked to the videos.
Just as the pandemic takes from us, it also nudges us to adjust, adapt and rethink teaching and learning, the dynamics of which, in any case, are never static.
In sum, the pandemic afforded academics like myself an opportunity to relearn yet again that necessity is the mother of invention. Just as the pandemic takes from us, it also nudges us to adjust, adapt and rethink teaching and learning, the dynamics of which, in any case, are never static.
An Interview With Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Tajudin Md Ninggal, Cluster of Education and Social Sciences
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my_philosophy profiles OUM academics, facilitators, tutors, and subject-matter experts, as well as the personal educational philosophy that drives each of them