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Why learn or teach online?

Over the next few months I will be looking at why learning outside of the classroom in a virtual setting is becoming ever more popular and relevant in both our teachers’ and students’ daily lives.

So why learn online? Well, it makes learning fun and interactive, which is guaranteed to get students on board. Online learning is action orientated and, often being geared towards problem solving, it encourages students to be social and builds their self-confidence. Learning online also means that students have access to online simulators to conduct experiments, dissect eyeballs or build cities. The possibilities are absolutely endless, and quite frankly, mind blowing for those of us who never had access to anything like that when we were at school!

Teaching online enables you to reach students all over the world – students from different cultures, with different interests or needing different levels of support. As a result, as a teacher, you learn a great deal from them and can improve your own teaching skills – and you may even end up teaching record-breaking numbers of students via online lectures and webinars (take the examples of Kim Ki-hoon or Salman Khan).

However, if that’s a step too far at the moment, a great way to go about online learning is actually to get your students to work together on projects where appropriate. If they’ve all got their English AS exam coming up – why not do a Q and A session on Google hangouts or a Twitter drop-in the night before to soothe last minute worries? These types of activities enable students to participate in a natural way, taking advantage of technologies they probably already use for socialising.

It is important to use the right technology when teaching online in order to improve the learning outcomes for students and to create opportunities for continuous improvement over time. It should be fun but it must have meaning; technologies should be used to provide access to materials outside of the classroom such as Internet links, resources and interactive games.

In my next blog post in March, we will have a look at some of these technologies in a bit more depth. In the meantime, here is some further reading for you:

Transforming the Way We Learn: Engaging the Millennial Generation

Education Technology Evaluation Checklist

Teaching the Millennials

Holly Dinsdale

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