2. Choose the methods and ways of working

Key questions

• Which ways of working best promote goal-oriented learning?
• Which teaching methods and models suitable for digital environments are appropriate for this course?
• How do I plan the interactions taking place in the digital learning environments of the course?

From learning outcomes to the learning process

The choice of working and teaching methods and the planning of learning assignments for a course are influenced by competence-based learning outcomes, pedagogical models and design principles, available digital learning environments, and the competence level of the student group.

It is good to remember that capacity building means student-driven participation that involves working alone and together with others as well as experimenting when practical things are learned. The in-depth learning of complex issues requires both individual and collaborative work and the teacher’s guidance. The choice and planning of work methods for a course are influenced by the teacher’s understanding of how to apply one’s perception of people, knowledge and learning in practice. With these actions, the teacher constructs the teacher-centredness or learner-centredness of the learning situation; not in terms of pulling tricks but in terms of work methods that are appropriate for the learning process.

When a teacher plans a learning process, he or she reflects the working and teaching methods with which the learning situation proceeds. The teacher thinks about the actions related to teaching and learning methods as a sequence of events for both the teacher and the students. When planning a course, the stages of teaching must be considered, ie at which stages will learning to happen in a teacher-centred, collaborative, and individual manner.

Teaching methods

It is worth choosing the working and teaching methods of a course in a way that supports collaborative capacity building and knowledge sharing. Different and varying teaching methods bring a new rhythm to teaching. You can find ideas for those via the links below. The same teaching methods as in the classroom can be used in online teaching, but they often require more careful planning and phasing in digital environments.

Learning assignments

  • Learning assignments are a concrete way to make progress in one’s work and they guide the build-up of learning. Learning assignments should support attaining the learning outcomes and enable the individual consideration of students. When designing a learning assignment:
  • Clearly describe the purpose, objective, completion method, assessment criteria, guidance, timetable and the extent of the assignment
  • Check that the assignment is plainly instructed and that it guides the students’ work towards attaining the learning outcomes
  • Consider the digital environments or activities in the learning environment in which the work will take place

Interaction and activation

In digital environments, interaction is often textual, lacking the gestures and facial expressions that are used in face-to-face interaction to interpret messages. The risk of misinterpretation is therefore high. Demonstrating one’s presence also happens with messages.

It is good to go through the rules of interaction with the students:

  • Use messages to express your participation. Only the teacher can see the activity from reports, the students can only see it in the posted messages.
  • Avoid monologues. Discuss previous texts. Ask, do not assume!
  • Stick to the timetable or let the students know about absences or delays.
  • Be patient. Others may not read or respond to your messages immediately.
  • Accept incomplete ideas from yourself and others, even if they remain visible in writing.

Avoid pitfalls:

  • Using discussion as a learning assignment should have a clear, defined goal that everyone is familiar with.
  • Discussion should also have a time limit to maintain the intensity of participation.
  • It is good to draw together ideas or agreed issues in the discussion. Assigning roles may be helpful (eg chairperson, summariser, group observer etc.).
  • Discussion does not work well in very large groups. Divide the participants into smaller groups.
  • Choose the tools you are using according to the aim of the discussion (cf. discussion board, chat).

Real-time interaction via video also requires careful planning. You can utilise a versatile range of small group workspaces and the possibilities the digital environment offers to engage the participants in interaction through, for example, discussion, annotations, or chat messages.

Pay special attention to group cohesion in the digital environment. The group members can easily remain ‘faceless’ because it is harder to have informal conversations and get to know each other virtually than in face-to-face meetings. Commitment to the group and its objectives is generally higher if the participants have at least some degree of familiarity or feel connected with the group. It is also useful to give the group an opportunity for more informal discussions or to reserve time for group formation at the beginning. Before the actual work begins, groups can be encouraged to agree on common work methods and timetables and to discuss the objectives more generally.

Group assignments can be activating and motivating for the students, based on problem-solving or highlighting prior knowledge and understanding. It should be borne in mind that assignments are a key tool for guidance in digital environments. The structure and pace of the learning process in the same way as face-to-face lessons. Learning assignments allow the teacher to steer the learning process in the right direction and help the students process and apply available information.

Links checked 4.12.2023