A la carte or fixed menu?

I think I am moving to a more nuanced position about how my students can get the most out of the online eAward. Although I do firmly believe that use of a range of online technologies contribute to the students’ learning experience I am learning not to be too dogmatic. In other words I am more relaxed about letting the students pick and choose from the menu of resources, activities and technologies.

•  For example, we have 3 ebooks on the VLE (Blackboard) and I encourage students to dip into them. One student has bought a print copy of one of the books and has suggested that in our pre-course information we give students the option  of buying the book

• Mind you, I am still trying to devise ways of increasing participation in the discussion forum. Some students say they feel discouraged when they see that a thread is started by a student who writes a scarily impressive post which they feel they can’t match. A suggested solution is for me to nominate a different student to start each thread. Let’s see how that works!

• the à la carte approach to online tutorials has had mixed success. It enabled students who were a bit nervous about the idea simply to opt out. I am going to hold sessions at fixed times each week, rather than letting students choose the time.

• ..and to return to my hobby horse of how best to give feedback to students, my own experience and the students’ own views are very much suggesting that an à la carte mix is the best way forward. For example, maybe oral feedback (synchronous or recorded) has immediacy and can be more subtle with its use of body language and tone of voice, but written feedback is more convenient and less time-consuming for the student if the feedback needs to be referred to more than once.

I wonder if online learning actually gives the students more à la carte choice than would be possible in a face-to-face setting.

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