Insofar, we’ve been talking about learning spaces in the context of physical spaces. However, we are increasingly reliant on online means to teach and communicate with students – using emails, forums, tweets, etc. Unlike the supporting role online spaces used to be, they are now vital to successful learning, taking on a co-lead role in higher education teaching.
Consider Radcliffe’s (2009, p. 13) diagram about the relationship between pedagogy, space and technology:
This diagram highlights how pedagogy, space, and technology mutually shape each other. The pedagogical and technological aspects cannot be separated from spatial considerations, even when relying on virtual or technology-enhanced learning. Virtual environments themselves are “learning spaces”, whether they be the learning management systems (LMS), social media, or cloud-based services, as they allow us to move within the sites, navigating between content and interaction.
In this post, we will briefly discuss the affordances of online learning spaces and how we can design them to compliment teaching and learning within physical spaces.
What can an online learning space look like?
The online space takes on a character of its own. Similar to physical spaces, it speaks to us and conveys messages on how we expect students to use the space or learn within it. Each learning space, based on its configuration and level of control (i.e. who can design and edit what and when), allows and encourages different types of learning experiences.
|Formal online learning space – This is a course site on our University’s LMS. The structure and language (e.g. “Module One”) prompt students to go through the course linearly, suggesting a more didactic and teacher-led style of learning.|
|Personal learning space – This is our institution’s ePortfolio which provides you with a blank slate to keep a record of your work at the University or reflections of learning. It encourages more self-directed and active learning. But students’ are unlikely to engage in this activity on their own. Can you think why that would be the reason?|
|Semi-formal learning space – This is our coffee course blog which we classify as a semi-formal learning space. It has scheduled courses but these are publicly available and open to everyone at anytime, allowing for co-creation of content and peer-to-peer support through the commenting system. ANU staff can also note this as a form of professional development or complete the coffee course certificate when it is offered. Do you agree with our assessment of our coffee course blog? What makes an online space for informal or formal learning?|
There are many types of online learning spaces. Some require a lot of preparation by the teacher (e.g. LMS, micro-learning blogs) to facilitate learning and interaction while others are learner-driven and self-directed (e.g. ePortfolio). Online learning spaces, through design, navigation, activities and guidance (e.g. instructions or learning outcomes), can stimulate different types learning such as active or didactic learning. In addition, they are often networked and linked to other online learning spaces opening up opportunities to intermix different types of learning.
An online learning space that has become quite popular are serious games (i.e. games with a primary goal for teaching and learning). While we will not discuss this in detail, it is interesting to take a look at some of the different serious games and explore the various methods used to encourage learning (e.g. simulation, competition, problem-solving, repetition, storytelling):
Select an online learning space (e.g. course site) you are familiar with. What do the design, navigation and activities tell you about the type of learning you are going to engage in? Is this the intention of the online learning space? Provide a link to the site in the comments section or post a screenshot on the Padlet here: https://padlet.com/rebecca_ng1/onlinelearningspace
What does it mean to have an “active learning” online space?
Two important aspects to creating active online learning spaces are:
- Encouraging purposeful online collaboration and interaction
Active online learning also provides opportunities for purposeful collaboration and interaction. These can be done through forum discussions, wiki collaborations, backchannel chats and virtual whiteboards (e.g. Padlets). While we encourage peer-to-peer or student-to-content interactions, similar to physical learning spaces, the online space requires an active facilitator or moderator with social presence.
- Designing authentic activities and experiences
Active learning online does not simply mean increasing interaction, adding activities or providing extensive resources online. For what purpose may we want interaction? And how can we encourage active engagement with course material?
More so than face-to-face teaching, active online learning requires the implementation of activities that specifically relate to learning outcomes, have real world relevance and are well-defined, scaffolded, structured and supported (see McLoughlin & Lee, 2008; OSU, 2017). Some activities may include role play, case studies and problem-based learning.
The blending of online and offline learning spaces
Blended learning, or the convergence of online and face-to-face learning spaces, is now a large part of higher education.
As boundaries between physical and virtual spaces are becoming less clear and more permeable, we need to ensure sufficient consistency and blending of online and offline learning spaces to provide a coherent learning experience. This may include redistributing study activity from physical to online learning spaces (and vice versa), increasing flexibility and using mobile devices (Ellis & Goodyear, 2016).
At the University of Melbourne for example, virtual and augmented reality have been used to provide active blended learning “spaces”. See how a lecturer in archaeology used virtual reality to teach Ancient Egyptian.
Below is a template (and accompanying example) of how you can blend activities between online and offline space:
Using the activity-level blending template, think of how you can facilitate an activity that can be distributed across offline and online spaces.
Coffee Course: Designing Online Learning Environments
Coffee Course: Engaging Students Online
Ellis, R. A. and Goodyear, P. (2016). Models of learning space: integrating research on space, place and learning in higher education. Rev Educ, 4, pp. 149-191. Available: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/rev3.3056
Keppell, M., Souter, K. & Riddle, M. (2012). Physical and virtual learning spaces in higher education: concepts for the modern learning environment. United States, Hershey: IGI Publishing (IGI Global).
McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. J. W. (2008). The three P’s of pedagogy for the networked society: Personalisation, participation and productivity. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 1, pp. 10-27.
Ohio State University (OSU) (2017). Active Learning in an Online Course. Ohio State University, Office of Distance Education and Learning. Available: https://resourcecenter.odee.osu.edu/course-design-and-pedagogy/active-learning-online-course [Accessed 19 February 2019].
Radcliffe, D. (2009). A Pedagogy-space-technology (PST) framework for designing and evaluating learning places. In D. Radcliffe, H. Wilson, D. Powell, & B. Tibbetts (Eds.). Learning spaces in higher education: Positive outcomes by design. Brisbane, Qld: The University of Queensland and the Australian Learning and Teaching Council. Available: https://epubs.scu.edu.au/tlc_pubs/185/
Salmon, G. (2002). The five-stage framework and e-tivities. In Salmon, G., E-tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning. United Kingdom, London: Taylor & Francis. Available: http://daama.academia.iteso.mx/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2014/09/Etivities_Salmon.pdf.