by Darren Sudlow

What the Research Says

Earlier this year, Professor Kwok-Wing Lai, of the University of Otago completed academic research on the pedagogical practices of NetNZ teachers

The whole article can be found here, but the following are some interesting points drawn from it:

There is clear research and evidence to support teaching approaches that promote interaction, community, student agency, and connectedness are integral to engaging and motivating learners in an online environment. This is no surprise - Maggie Hartnett's thesis on motivation in online environments supports these observations as well

The importance of relationship building in the online environment, and the challenges some of our teachers are having with this. Part of this is clear recognition of the limitation of relying on synchronous times (the video conference) to connect with students. As Wing himself says “The use of multi-channels (synchronously and asynchronously) to increase the bandwidth of communication is consistent with Anderson’s (2008) finding that video-conferencing by itself is insufficient to provide adequate communication in online classes, and it also supports Zhao et al.’s (2005) finding that using both synchronous and asynchronous channels (instead of either one) would enhance the involvement of the teacher.” This highlights the importance of taking learning online, developing a strong central hub for interaction, connection and collaboration. This enables the community building that is so important in online learning.

That we are developing a ‘flavour’ of online learning that places connectedness as a central value in how a course is designed, and how our students learn. It is heartening to see so many teachers realising this and clearly working hard on developing it within their own course.

This ‘flavour’ also encompasses growing innovation in the environment, where our teachers are trying things, and willing to push boundaries. Knowledge building is growing, and inquiry approaches to learning reasonably prevalent as well.

“NetNZ has developed a unique community model to delivery online courses by involving schools in the admission process, staffing (through the exchange model), on-site support (the eDeans), course development (the eTeachers), and quality assurance. This community approach has also been used in teacher development. Although eTeachers are the sole online teacher in their home schools, they know that they are supported by a community of practitioners.”

Recognition that the environment creates significant flexibility for the learner. “This flexibility means students were more autonomous in their online classes, and they were also encouraged to exercise agency in learning.”

And of course, the importance of onsite support - a focus for us this year with an ongoing eDean community of practice exploring how we can develop 'deep support' systems and practices.