TEC-VARIETY into Moodle

I’ve been pondering this for a few weeks since learning of this model, and I think I would like to pursue it further.  I believe that applying the TEC-VARIETY model, by Bonk and Khoo, to an online course that is designed in Moodle would be a great way of implementing the framework and testing the level of engagement from students.  Many academics these days that I talk to wonder if there students are even going into the LMS learning space and I know for some they have used the logs and can see that students have not even logged in more than once.  What can be done to make learning in this space more valid and motivating? That’s why I’d like to test out the TEC-VARIETY model in Moodle.

Forums are one of the first and sometimes only activity being set up in an online course and still some are not engaging with them.  Setting the tone and climate of the course is paramount and can be effectively done through an ice breaker forum.  Set a question that is non-confrontational, doesn’t require too much thought and will create the chance for students to learn more about each other.  Why not ask them which person in the world, dead or alive, would they be if they could and why.  Or ask them, where would they live if they could live anywhere and why.  These kind of questions can start some great conversations.  If it’s a early childhood class maybe you can get more contextualised and ask for student to share their funniest childhood memory, this could really some laughs.

Being present in the course as a convener is also critical for students to know it is worth them coming into the environment.  Set up activities that will provide feedback to students, like quizzes and lessons, and even the workshop activities, which can give them convener and peer feedback.  Encouragement them in their efforts and achievements, no matter the impact.  Reply to some of their forum posts and encourage them on their ideas.  Group work is also a great way of building in the opportunity for encouragement and support.  Utilise groups and groupings and create group activities like forums and wikis.

Now creating curiosity is something I don’t believe is thought of a great deal in the online classroom but you sometimes need to get creative and use your imagination.  I know that in many secondary instances of Moodle there are games that can be implemented but why not implement some form of gaming into a Moodle course?  It’s not something I have seen done much, if at all, in higher education Moodle courses but maybe just getting students to create their own avatars for the course is a start.  (I will think about this one some more).

License Attribution Share Alike Some rights reserved by cosartd (Flickr Creative Commons)

With all of the different tools and online widgets and media that can be embedded into an HTML page, there is no reason why a Moodle course can’t become a course that uses these kinds of resources to give students variety.  Last year when I was designing a large course and I was doing books of content in Moodle, there was a Venn Diagram activity that was planned but it was to go online if possible.  After much searching and testing, I came across Dabbleboard, an online whiteboard tool that can be edited by multiple users, embedded in an HTML page and remain available and free to edit.  It worked great and it just added some variety to the book.

Giving students the opportunity to choose their own groups is easy in Moodle with the group selection activity so why not let them choose their own groups.  Also, I definitely think there is a place for using the choice activity for polling and just getting a surveyed opinion on an issue from students for example.  Students like ownership and the opportunity to get involved, have a say and a choice good be very motivating.

I think for me, I found many of my university courses taught me all the theories and ideas I needed to know to pass and get my degrees, however, it didn’t always feel authentic.  Courses have the opportunity to bridge the gap from the study to the practice so where possible, have discussions about what the theory will mean in practice when they have jobs, interview people already in the industry and post these in the course.  Make the experience of study meaningful by also focusing on the reason for their study, the job/s it will lead to.

Interactivity is also made easier with tools provided in Moodle.  Plugins and modules like quizzes, wikis, blogs, lessons, SCORM, glossary and database offer so much in the way of interactivity that students will have plenty to engage with.  There are also many other modules available and the chance to plugin other online tools as well so this one is a no brainer 🙂

Effort, involvement and excitement for be encouraged in the online classroom but it should also be encouraged in the convener as well.  Students will go by what is modeled to them and if they see that their convener or teacher is putting in effort to be involved and is excited about the course and its activities then they too might just catch on.  I know that academics put in a lot of effort to get the course up and running but the students don’t always realise that amount of work has already gone into it before it starts and they want to see involvement as it progresses.  I think there are small things that could make a big difference like replying to a forum post.

Tension is also easy to do in an online classroom I believe.  Group work is always a challenge 🙂  Getting students to work with other students always breeds some form of tension and controversy but its a good learning experience for all.  Forums are also a great way to breed tension and I believe I have mentioned this before but using a forum to post something controversial and thought-provoking is very valuable.

All of this will culminate, if planned and implemented correctly, in success.  Students need ownership over their learning so give them some choice and get them to keep a reflective blog.  Set goals both course wide and get students to set their own personal goals in their blog for what they would like to achieve in this course.  Set assignments that are going to help students create a product that will benefit later on in their professional life and career as well.  I don’t know how many assignment I’ve done in my degrees that have been useless afterwards, make them meaningful and long-lasting, a product to carry into the future somehow.

I of course have to do a lot more research and thinking about this and when Dr Bonk’s book is complete I will get that and read it as well for a more comprehensive understanding of the TEC-VARIETY model in online learning.

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