ODL and principles of good teaching

Well, here I am happily back in Penang at Wawasan Open University. This time it’s for a longer stint than last time – about 14 weeks of workshops and associated activities.

During a session this week I tried something new (for me, anyway!). In an activity, we analysed the applicability of accepted principles of good practice in higher education to open and distance learning (ODL).

First, of course, just what are principles of good teaching? Well, the seven developed by Chickering and Gamson back in 1987 have held up pretty well over time, and are certainly still used in staff development workshops by my old colleagues back at Monash University.

Further, in 1996, Chickering and Ehrmann examined how the use of educational technology in higher education could be assessed in their paper Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever. Although technology has moved along apace since then, it’s still makes for interesting reading, especially in the section headed ‘Technology is not enough’.

Anyway, as Chickering and Gamson originally stated, “good practice in undergraduate education:

  1. encourages contact between students and faculty,
  2. develops reciprocity and cooperation among students,
  3. encourages active learning,
  4. gives prompt feedback,
  5. emphasizes time on task,
  6. communicates high expectations, and
  7. respects diverse talents and ways of learning.”

To examine the ‘fit’ with ODL, we divided into seven groups, with each group investigating whether the principle can be applied in ODL. During the reporting session, although all groups agreed that each principle could be implemented in ODL, some (e.g. 2 and 6) were perceived as more challenging than others. [Click on thumbs to view in full size]

But what was more interesting was the feeling that some are more easily and effectively implemented in ODL. In other words, ODL is potentially superior to traditional classroom instruction in at least some areas of effective teaching practice. This is particularly true of principles 3 and 5. As an outcome, perhaps the following bold claim can be made!

In terms of the ease of implementation, the superiority of either ODL or traditional education (TE) with respect to the principles is:

  1. encourages contact between students and faculty (TE)
  2. develops reciprocity and cooperation among students (TE)
  3. encourages active learning (ODL)
  4. gives prompt feedback (even – a challenge for both!)
  5. emphasizes time on task (ODL)
  6. communicates high expectations (even)
  7. respects diverse talents and ways of learning (ODL)

So, ODL stacks up pretty well, doesn’t it?





3 thoughts on “ODL and principles of good teaching

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