Supporting online teaching with research-based evidence from AJET

By Linda Corrin (AJET Associate Editor), Michael Henderson, Eva Heinrich and Petrea Redmond (AJET Lead Editors)

As universities rapidly transitioned to online teaching in response to the growing threat of COVID-19, many lists of tips and tricks were made available by institutions and the broader educational technology community to help support this process. These resources provided short and easy-to-follow instructions or guidelines, but sometimes lacked references to the evidence explaining why it was a good idea to implement the strategies suggested.

In response, the Australasian Journal of Educational Technology (AJET) editorial team delved into the journal’s 35-year archive of research and compiled a list of useful articles on the use of technology to support learning and teaching within current online teaching environments. Over the last six weeks these articles have been profiled on Twitter via the AJET Twitter account (@AJET_eds). In case you missed them, here is a summary of the articles profiled and how they can help inform the design of online learning and teaching as we plan ahead for what still remains a somewhat uncertain future.

Designing for learning using technology

Transitioning from face-to-face to online was a challenge for many, but a key question about operating in the online environment was whether to teach synchronously or asynchronously. Decisions also needed to be made about the tools that can facilitate online communication, such as whether social media may (or may not) provide a useful channel to support learning and teaching. Some have implemented discussion forums to give students a space to converse and share. There are many ways these discussion activities can be designed to encourage student engagement, including allowing students to post anonymously. But does this make a difference? (Spoiler alert: Yes, but also leads us to a better understanding of student posting behaviour in general).

The role of the teacher in the online learning environment

The importance of the role of teacher presence in building a learning community online has long been acknowledged. The first paper we profiled in this series provided six design principles for crafting asynchronous teacher messages that can help establish teacher presence and also enhance student satisfaction. The ability of teachers to teach to their personality is also important, especially when sharing values and enacting care for students. We also must not forget the digital equity of staff and how we can support them to develop their capability to work with technology.

Supporting students online

Online teaching frequently involves catering to diverse sets of students with a wide range of backgrounds, demographics, and abilities. Over the years AJET has published articles that provide guidance for teaching a range of different student groups online including indigenous students, women with carer responsibilities, students on the autism spectrum, and students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. It is also important to understand what makes students choose to study online as well as what graduate students like in the online learning environment. Providing general support for students to help them self-direct their learning with technology is crucial, regardless of which groups they may fall into.

Online assessment and feedback

A topic that has been in the forefront of many academics’ minds, especially as we approach the end of semester, is how to effectively assess students in the online environment. Ensuring the quality of assessment online is important and LMS data can be used to improve the design and alignment of online tests. Also critical to the assessment process is the provision of feedback, and one way this can be delivered in the online environment is via the creation of feedback videos.

These profiled articles address some of the key areas of consideration for the current online environment, but there are so many more. We encourage you to search the AJET archives of over a thousand articles providing evidence and guidance to support the use of educational technology in practice. AJET is an open-access journal, so these articles are freely available to all.

You might like to also follow @AJET_eds on Twitter to keep up with new research as it is released online. AJET provides high-quality research articles that offer evidence to support continual innovation in the way technology is used for learning and teaching, for now as well as into the post-COVID-19 future.

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