Aligning Outcomes, Assessment and Activities

As we plan the development of courses, regardless of the modality in which those courses will be delivered, it’s always important to keep the end in mind. What do you want your learners to know or do when they complete the course? Starting with the expected outcomes, we can plan better to ensure that the learners have every opportunity to achieve those outcomes. What sort of activities will help the learners achieve the outcome(s)? What resources will be needed to ensure that the learners have everything they need?

Much of what we are doing with our part-time faculty involves online learning experiences. And as we are talking about moving more courses to the online environment, a critical consideration is ensuring that the courses do not lose rigour when moved from face-to-face environment to online environment. By following backward design strategies, and thinking about the desired outcomes, we can ensure that all of the learning experiences and activities support the the learner’s progress toward achieving those outcomes.

So where do we start? And how can we ensure that we are creating significant learning experiences that will engage learners with real world problems?

Using tools like the Questions for Formulating Significant Learning Goals, we can begin mapping out the goals, experiences, and activities for the course.

Questions for Formulating Significant Learning Goals

“A year (or more) after this course is over, I want and hope that students (Faculty Participants) will continue to develop dynamic and engaging content for online courses that inspire and enhance the development of a sense of community in the online learning environment.

My Big Harry Audacious Goal (BHAG) for the course is:

Learners (Faculty Participants) will create significant learning environments and develop strategies within that environment to enhance the sense of community their students will feel in their online courses.

Foundational Knowledge

  • What key information (e.g., facts, terms, formulae, concepts, principles, relationships, etc.) is/are important for students to understand and remember in the future?

Faculty will learn about trends in online learning, and will understand theories and concepts that will help them connect with their learners.
Faculty participants will have a firm understanding of how to develop online learning communities in their online courses. Using concepts learned in the workshop, faculty learners will implement strategies that allow them to develop a sense of instructor presence throughout the courses they develop and teach online. Faculty participants will implement strategies that allow their learners to interact with each other in the online course environment. And faculty participants will develop engaging content and activities that will encourage students to engage with the content presented.

What key ideas (or perspectives) are important for students to understand in this course? Faculty participants will develop an understanding of the needs of online learners, and how to develop content that will encourage:

  • Instructor-Learner Interaction
  • Learner-Learner Interaction
  • Learner-Content Interaction

Application Goals

  • What kinds of thinking are important for students to learn?
    In the course I am focused on the participants need to think about how their students will feel connected. What experiences can we provide to the learners in the online environment that will help them to make feel less isoloated and feel as though they are part of a learning community?
  • Critical thinking, in which students analyze and evaluate
  • Creative thinking, in which students imagine and create
  • Practical thinking, in which students solve problems and make decisions
  • What important skills do students need to gain?
  • Do students need to learn how to manage complex projects?

For this course, faculty will employ critical thinking, creative thinking, and practical thinking as they work to create a course that inspires learner collaboration and group engagement. Using critical thinking skills, the faculty participants will plan activities that will help their learners achieve their goals in the online course. We know that not all activities that work in a face-to-face class will be effective in the online learning environment. Faculty will be challenged to take existing content and existing experiences from their face-to-face class and convert those into experiences that will engage online learners. The learners need opportunities to practice the skills they are developing in real-world ways. Faculty participants will utilise creative thinking as they practice with a variety of tools in the learning management system, and explore technology and media outside of the learning management system that will help them to modify existing activities and develop new activities and learning experiences that will help their students make meaningful connections as they are developing new skills and knowledge. 

Integration Goals

  • What connections (similarities and interactions) should students recognize and make…
    Faculty participants will experience community in different environments (within the LMS, within Social Media), and will participate in online group activities, and synchronous collaboration sessions. From these experiences, they will reflect on the differences in learning modalities, and will identify the experiences that will work best for their learners in their courses.…a work in progress…

     

  • Among ideas within this course?
  • Among the information, ideas, and perspectives in this course and those in other courses or areas?
  • Among material in this course and the students’ own personal, social, and/or work life?

Human Dimensions Goals

  • What could or should students learn about themselves?
  • What could or should students learn about understanding others and/or interacting with them?

Caring Goals

  • What changes/values do you hope students will adopt?

Feelings?

Interests?

Values?

“Learning-How-to-Learn” Goals

  • What would you like for students to learn about:
  • how to be good students in a course like this?
  • how to learn about this particular subject?
  • how to become a self-directed learner of this subject, i.e., having a learning agenda of what they need/want to learn, and a plan for learning it?

3 Column Table

In the alignment process, the program itself will have an expected outcome, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). But each component of the program will also have expected outcomes that will feed into the overarching program goals, creating a roadmap aligning the activities and workshops themselves toward program goals.

As an example, one workshop (Creating Community in Online Learning)

BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) – Overarching Workshop Goal:

Learners will develop strategies and activities to enhance the sense of community students will feel in their online courses.

Learning Goals Learning Activities Assessment Activities
LO1.            Establish a sense of presence in the online learning environment Readings (links to PDFs on changing trends in Online Learning provided in module) Blackboard quiz, over getting started strategies (similar to a syllabus quiz)

Participate in Discussion  using social media

LO2.            Compare/contrast journaling, blogs, wikis and other forms of online interaction that can be used to enhance online learning Reading (Links to articles, and PDF readings)

Engagement Activities (Blog, Social Media)

Reflection (Journal)

Social Media: Facebook Group Discussion

Participate in Discussion  using social media

Blackboard Journal

LO3.            Examine methods for evaluation of student work in a collaborative environment Reading (Links to articles, and PDF readings)

Engagement Activities (Blog, Social Media)

Reflection (Journal)

Blackboard Blog/Discussion on assessing collaborative activities
LO4.            Create and integrate effective communication and community-building methods into online teaching environments Reading (links to communication policies and strategies provided in module)

Engagement Activities (Group Activity and Course Wiki, Social Media, Synchronous Meeting through Collaborate)

Reflection (Journal)

Contribute to Blackboard Wiki

Participate in Discussion using Collaborate

Blackboard Assignment Dropbox (Create a communication policy)
Blackboard Journal

Taking the elements identified in the 3 column table above, I have crafted a tentative outline for this workshop:

Topic Instructional Approach Assignment Assignment Alignment
to Course SLO(s)
Assignment Submission
Method
Before we begin Participant Responsibility Exercise LO1 Blackboard Quiz
Getting Started

 

Readings (links to PDFs on changing trends in Online Learning provided in module) Social Media: Facebook Group Discussion LO1, LO2 Participate in Discussion using social media
Module 1

A Sense of Presence

Reading (Links to articles, and PDF readings)

Engagement Activities (Blog, Social Media)

Reflection (Journal)

Blog: Creating A Sense of Presence

Social Media (Facebook Group Discussion)

Journal – Reflection on activities that initiate and foster a sense of connection in the online classroom

LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

LO1, LO2, LO3
LO1, LO4

Blackboard Blog

Participate in Discussion using social media

Blackboard Journal

Module 2

Learning Communities

Reading (Links to articles, PDFs)

Engagement Activities (Blog, Social Media, Synchronous Meeting through Collaborate)

Reflection (Journal)

Assignment: Create a social media experience in your course

Social Media (Facebook Group Discussion)

Synchronous Discussion (Collaborate)

Journal – Reflection on activities that build community in online classroom

LO2, LO4

LO1, LO2

LO1, LO4

LO1, LO4

Blackboard Assignment Dropbox

Participate in Discussion using social media

Participation in Discussion using Collaborate

Blackboard Journal

Module 3

Designing Effective Communication Strategies

Reading (links to communication policies and strategies provided in module)

Assignment (Communication Policy)

Engagement Activities (Social Media)

Reflection (Journal)

Assignment (Develop a Communication Policy)

Social Media (Facebook Group Discussion)

Journal – Reflection on strategies for communication in online classroom

LO4
LO1, LO2LO1, LO5
Blackboard Assignment Dropbox

Participate in Discussion using social media

Blackboard Journal

 Module 4

Collaboration in the Online Classroom

Reading (links to EduCause article provided in module)

Engagement Activities (Group Activity and Course Wiki, Social Media, Synchronous Meeting through Collaborate)

Reflection (Journal)

Social Media (Facebook Group Discussion)

Group Activity and Course Wiki
Synchronous Discussion (Collaborate)

Reflection (Journal)

LO1, LO2
LO1, LO3
LO1, LO4
LO1, LO4
Participate in Discussion using social media

Participate in Blackboard Group Discussion

Contribute to Blackboard Wiki

Participate in Synchronous Discussion using Collaborate

Blackboard Journal

 

As I progress through this program, I am becoming more aware of the needs of my learners, and how to meet their needs through significant learning environments. Using resources such as Fink’s Creating Significant Learning Experiences, and tools like these examples, we will create strong, research-based workshops, courses, and supports for our part-time faculty that will ensure that we are continuing to provide our students with exceptional learning experiences.


References

Fink, D., (2003) Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

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