Given the current trends in education, I have a feeling I will be teaching an online class or two (or fifty) in my career. I’ve also been a student in an online class and in a blended class that uses online tools like discussion boards. The trick is to make the online course actually GOOD and not just tedium.
The question is now how on earth do we do that?
Naturally the SLOAN-C Convention had several sessions on how to enhance your online learners experiences. The ones that I found the most helpful (ok the two I chose to attend out of the numerous ones there) were Building a Culture of Critical Thinking: A multi-modal approach presented by Andrew Shean, Jeff Hall, and Debby Hailwood from Ashford University and then the session on Badging System to Document Competency-Based Learning in Online Geospatial Learning Lab by Stephen McElroy (American Sentinel University) both of which discussed badging your online courses.
Both sessions took a very different approach but had valuable information. Let’s start with Critical Thinking…This session mainly focused on increasing engagement and developing relationships with your students in order to enhance your online course. One way to go about this was the creation of badges for the course. In this sense, they were a little like gold stars or stickers in an elementary classroom setting. (Speaking as a former high school teacher, you’d be shocked about how excited 16 year olds get about a sticker.) Badges are the new thing…many websites or organizations offer them to put on your website for being a member, for contributing a post or for acknowledgement of an achievement…so why not transition this to online learning as well?
From what the presenters said, it works. Students wanted the badges. They were obviously optional and you could go through the whole course without earning a single one, but if you were highly motivated and contributed a lot to discussions, why not be recognized? Obviously some students will like this idea and others will ignore it, but I think it’s worth a shot. Resources like Openbadges and Basno allow you to create custom badges for your courses. Basno also has a facebook linking option.
Moving on to the next session on badges for competency-based courses badging is approached a little differently here. With this idea, badges show the level of competency achieved within the course, along with a certificate. The idea here is to break the course up in to topics or sections for the different competencies, then each competency has levels of novice, intermediate and advanced that learners can earn badges for. At the end of the course the certificates with each level of achievement can be given out to prove competency in that area.
Personally this approach sounds a lot like grading to me. The badges translate to the amount of work and effort you put in. Advanced would equal an A…but maybe that’s just my opinion.
With the first approach, you could give a badge for one good post. With the second a badge takes in-depth skill demonstration and several hours of work to attain. Both have applications in a variety of online courses. I think this is something I will use in my classroom in both the online and blended environments to try and enhance student engagement.
Can’t hurt to try, right?