#EDEN14 Designing authentic learning activities and environments: theory and practice


Andrea Gregg, Rick Shearer, Heather Dawson, Penn State University (World campus, approx 14000 online students)

Mostly adult learners, average age 30s, often in employment. Presenting four case studies.  Domain related practices, applicable to the students’ own context, ownership of the enquiry, coaching and modelling of thinking skills, opportunity for reflection, dilemmas are ill structured, support the learner, work is collaborative and social. Case studies vary on: text vs multimedia, logical and production complexity, etc

  • strategic communication case – typical jobs PR, writers. Students use own organisational experience to write press releases and news stories and share with peers via social media. Small scale safe practice for students.
  • instructional design case – short units, time to discuss readings and literature, writing in reflective journals and working on a big team project. Real world experience of working in instructional design using one of 4 provided scenarios, peer reviewed report.
  • forensic nursing autopsy case – 18 months spent videoing an autopsy for teaching purposes. Gives a more realistic experience
  • italian language learning case – high cost, high media. Starting from scratch, design how to maximise the virtual environment for online adult learners. Some worked culturally, some didn’t, eg attending an Italian wedding ( based on US cultural experiences rather than italian). So built around concept of a 15 day tour of Italy with different things to do, such as arriving at the hotel in Monte Carlo, seeing real menus etc.

Time and cost discussion: high cost and time vs low cost and time. Italian course at one end of spectrum, communication cost at the other. High cost approach perhaps not scalable… but have created a case that can be reused and learned a lot about what works, what makes sense, what real life experiences are important to students.

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About sharonslade

Dr Sharon Slade is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Business and Law at the Open University in the UK working to support both tutors and students on Open University distance learning modules and programmes. Her research interests encompass ethical issues in learning analytics and online learning and tuition. Project work includes the development of a student support framework to improve retention and progression and the development of a university wide tool for tracking students and triggering relevant and targeted interventions. She led the development of new policy around the ethical use of learning analytics within the Open University, UK.
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