The online learning programme featured a learner-centred, digitally minded approach that involved students joining and creating projects, clubs and businesses.
The Learn-Now programme
The Learn-Now programme was an extension programme for Primary school students working at Levels 3-5 of the New Zealand curriculum. Students developed small businesses, clubs and community service case study projects by working with online collaborative tools to communicate with students from other schools in the Learn-Now community. The programme included the teaching of the Essential skills, information literacy and inquiry-based learning.
The Learner-centred Principles
A learner-centred approach was evident from the analysis of the data collected. The Learner-centred principles (APA, 1997) and other literature identified the factors that contributed to effective teaching and learning in the Learn-Now programme. These included active, authentic and meaningful learning activities.
A model of online learning
The facilitator provided a model of online learning by enrolling students in the Project Double F area that had authentic learning experiences. Students collected and sent stamps to a woman in the Philippines, helping her to provide a living for her family. In this way, students experienced for themselves collaborative online learning with support so they could then develop their own project.
A learner-centred approach
Inquiry learning, activities based on students' interest and building on student's prior knowledge were other factors in a learner-centred approach that made for effective teaching and learning. The Project Park was an area where the students investigated their own questions on a topic of their own interest. Students had opportunities to join other projects that interested them and to invite students with similar interests to join their own project, sharing their knowledge and experiences. Each new activity and learning area built on the students' knowledge about online learning, developing their social skills as they worked collaboratively and then co-operatively, taking on specific roles within the group and working toward a common goal.
The Cyber Clubroom was an area where students worked collaboratively with students who had similar interests. More factors for effective online teaching and learning were goal setting, reflective thinking and active learning. Students reflected on and evaluated their learning and progress, and set new learning goals for the next step. The facilitator encouraged them to take responsibility for their own learning and not only be actively engaged in the Learn-Now programme, but to be proactive.
Another factor that involved effective teaching and learning was co-operative learning. In the businesses, students developed life skills and took on roles parallel to real-life situations. They were also involved in problem-solving and reflective thinking relating to their business context as well as their online relationships.
A learner-centred, digitally minded approach
Even though the approach was a learner-centred one, it involved the use of online collaborative tools that were somewhat invisible because the focus was not on the technology. Therefore, this approach could then be described as a learner-centred, digitally minded approach, which was evident in the online learning and made for effective teaching and learning in an online learning community.
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