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    • #4640
      Laura Berlage

      felting gnomeIn an in-person classroom, students naturally self-regulate to what helps them learn best.  They may take notes, take pictures, or come to you to explain it to them again but in a different way.  Some will pour over your handout, while others won’t even look at it.  All these nuances reflect different ways our brains process information and learn.

      In the virtual classroom, these opportunities narrow, as does the amount of live time students have with you.  Especially if you are hosting a mutli-week course (where students tune in for 2 hours once a week), much of the “work” of the class will happen without you being personally available.  What can happen is that some students or learning styles can become lost in the shuffle, as they have fewer options to self-regulate and make it work for them in this environment.

      Certainly, there could be MANY ways to create an interdisciplinary approach to supporting online learners, this is what I have garnered through study, observation, and use to create a “many ways up the mountain” approach to my classes.

      Here are the key takeaways:

      • Students who need to watch you do it and ask questions during the process:  Live time on Zoom with demonstrations.
      • Students who need to watch you do it over and over without the distraction of anybody asking questions:  Pre-recorded tutorials.
      • Students who need to see clear, still pictures:  Photo documentation.
      • Students who need to read well-described instructions:  Step-by-step instructions.
      • Students who really need to get their hands on it and try it:  Meaninful class project and the ability to ask questions during demonstrations.

      Most students are a combination of more than one of these elements.  Visual learners will do best with a combination of photographs and videos, while audio/verbal learners need to hear you say it on video as well as read it.  Kinesthetic learners need to get their hands on the process and will often need videos they can start and stop and replay many, many times until they can “feel” the process for themselves.

      Having more ways up the mountain becomes increasingly important as you tackle more involved courses.  For instance, I launched my needle felting classes with live time plus a pre-recorded tutorial.  I haven’t written instructions for this medium yet, though I do have students who ask for them!  I may, at some point, add written instructions for this medium to help my verbal learners.

      Those written instructions, studded with high resolution images illustrating the different steps and stages, have proven absolutely essential for involved mediums such as tapestry weaving and punch needle rug hooking.  These I offer to students as digital download PDFs, so I don’t have to print color documents to send them that might be somewhere between 27 and 74 pages long!  Some students print these themselves and save them in binders, while others prefer to use them in their digital form while they work.

      Having pre-recorded tutorials also serve as an excellent backup in case of a technology breakdown during your live session.  Perhaps the internet gods are not smiling that day, or you experience a power outage in the middle of class–if all your students know that everything is already available in the tutorials, they won’t miss anything.  They can always get what they need to know in pristine condition.  This can greatly reduce classroom anxiety right out of the gate!

      I have seen other educators use transcripts generated from their tutorials as the written material for their class.  This works best when it doesn’t have to be embedded with photos to illustrate what you are discussing, but it is another option if writing instructions sounds like a painful process to you.  As educators, we have our strengths and styles too!  In some cases, you may wish to buddy up with a writing friend to co-create materials if needed.

      An important thing to consider is that, while all these additional supplemental materials are a boatload of work as you release a class, you get to use them over and over and over again after you create them.  Pad your materials fee with something that goes towards access to the written and pre-recorded materials (for courses that include photo essays and tutorials, I oven add $15-17 per material fee), so that over time you will recover your investment.  As of 9/18/2023, I’ve had 143 students use my “Intro to Tapestry Weaving, Level-1” materials, so there’s some math towards paying back that time!

      Having access to these additional learning tools is also a way that you add value to your class and distinguish yourself from other educators.  As students learn that your style includes ways designed to facilitate their learning style, this builds loyalty and retention.  I’ve had students say right in class, “Yes, I know that your classes cost more, but I also get so much MORE from the experience, so it’s so worth it to me.”

      Consider how you can build in many ways up the mountain to support different types of learners.  What additional ideas come to mind?  What methods have you used to support classes currently or in the past?

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