Teaching & Learning in the Online Classroom: Reimagining Pedagogy to Engage Our Learners

Apr 28 2022

Key Takeaway: The pandemic has challenged educators to transform their teaching practices to suit a new learning environment—one where meaningful learning can take place with or without the presence of a teacher. Moving towards learner-centered instruction and well-designed online teaching should encourage students to remain motivated and engaged by providing diverse, collaborative learning activities and creating a space where students are empowered to take control over their own learning. —Taryn McBrayne

In his article, author John Andrew Cohen (Division of Learning and Teaching, Charles Sturt University) discusses the role that the COVID-19 pandemic has played in encouraging educators to re-evaluate their pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning. Cohen argues that while many companies and organizations needed to quickly transform their face-to-face classrooms to remain in business, by implementing the same instructional methods used in the physical classroom in an online setting, they may not be meeting the needs of their learners.

In an online classroom, teachers often have the flexibility to deliver instruction synchronously or asynchronously, meaning that the teacher may not always be physically present in the virtual class. Cohen cites Mottus et al. (2018)1 in emphasizing that while a teacher’s role as a “content delivery expert may be reduced in ubiquitous learning environments [such as online learning environments], the need for their pedagogical skills in effective facilitation has, if anything, increased in importance.” Cohen argues that online teaching needs to ensure that learning can occur, even without a teacher’s presence. Thus, as Cohen explains, traditional lecture-style teaching approaches may not be suitable.

The author highlights “Learner-Centered Teaching”2 as a useful framework for fostering productive learning environments without the direct presence of a teacher. Through sharing the power between the student and teacher, learners are “empowered to make decisions about when they learn, how they learn, where they learn, with whom they learn and on some occasions what they learn and how they are assessed.” In addition, researchers such as Weimer (2002)2 highlight the importance of sharing power, stating that “student motivation, confidence and enthusiasm for learning are all adversely affected when teaching staff control the process through which they learn.” Researchers Weimer (2002)2 and Shearer et al. (2019)3 also suggest that “learners are highly autonomous” and as a result, “instructors are facilitators, negotiators, and guides.” Here, the author recommends a shift in teaching design from direct instruction to self-direction, emphasizing the learning experience as opposed to solely the delivery of content.

Thus, Cohen explains that educators can build a strong student-centered online learning environment by providing a wide range of activities, ways for students to manage their own learning, and multiple opportunities to check for understanding. Ultimately, the author emphasizes that “learning design should aid the facilitation of learning—they should influence each other symmetrically, in a ‘hand in glove’ manner.”

Summarized Article: Cohen, J.A. (2021). A fit for purpose pedagogy: online learning designing and teaching, Development and Learning in Organizations: An International Journal, Vol. 35 (4), pp. 15-17. https://doi.org/10.1108/DLO-08-2020-0174

Summary by: Taryn McBrayne—Taryn believes in the power of student voice and, through the MARIO Framework, strives to create more opportunities for both educators and students to regularly make use of this power.

Additional References:

1. Mottus, A., Kinshuk, N., Sabine, G., Uthman, A. and Ahmed, A. (2018), “Teacher facilitation support in ubiquitous learning environments”, Technology, Pedagogy and Education, Vol. 27 No. 5, pp. 549-570.

2. Weimer, M. (2002), Learner-Centered Teaching: Five Key Changes to Practice, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

3. Shearer, R., Aldemirb L., Hitchcock T., Resig, J.J., Driver, J. and Kohler, M. (2019), “What students want: a vision of a future online learning experience grounded in distance education theory”, American Journal of Distance Education, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 36-52.

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