Re-Designing Hands-on Group Activities to Foster Deeper, More Engaged Learning in Distance-Education Courses

The adoption of research-based instructional strategies (RBIS) in face to face (f2f) learning environments has recently been gaining momentum, however incorporating RBIS into distance education (DE) remains challenging [2]. We are developing ways of converting face-to-face instructional strategies in geoscience courses for use in DE versions of these courses. Some aspects of DE course design translate easily, including the scientific and learning objectives, and corresponding choices of tasks and resources. Other aspects need significant re-design if learning is to be optimized. Students must interact and explore resources digitally within a meaningful context, products they generate must be efficient to produce, deliver, share and assess online, and group work, expert-novice interactions and frequent, timely and effective feedback must be facilitated. Participants will gain insight about techniques for translating f2f learning strategies into DE settings and then discuss the implementation, transferability and sustainability of these techniques. First we will describe a hands-on, group-based lab activity being converted for online use. Aspects include: (i) augmenting the scientific framework with real contexts to enhance student motivation; (ii) designing online data entry, sketching, question-answering and feedback strategies; (iii) developing inexpensive, reusable mechanisms for designing, building and deploying interactive digital resources that enable students to manipulate and analyze rocks, fossils or other specimens; and (iv) implementing workflow and technical mechanisms that facilitate peer instruction and group work. After establishing some context with this short presentation, we will facilitate an interactive discussion about challenges, techniques and opportunities related to redesigning f2f activities for DE use.