Last month, I wrote about the intentional onboarding necessary to set students up for success in the online space. We’ve also learned that simple design and technology are key to student success too.
I should note that this philosophy worked against impulses of the technology leaders in 2009 (the year we were founded), and still against many technology leaders today. Technology leaders can be excited about the next new gadget, and work to bring new tools regularly into all classrooms. Our approach was different… in part because of necessity.
As a consortium of schools, we couldn’t make assumptions about the types of devices and platforms that our students would come to our class with. So, we couldn’t require add-ons (software or hardware) in the ways that many schools would. We settled on two pretty simple requirements: high-speed internet access and a computer with a webcam. This meant, by necessity that almost all of the work that students did, had to be in the learning management system.
There was another reason for the simple design, and that was philosophical: we believed that in good learning design, learning should be at the forefront, not technology. We wanted to make sure that our students were not concentrating on learning a new technology, but instead on the learning happening in the class.
This also meant standardizing the look and feel of our courses so that a student would not have difficulty navigating the online learning space. At first, we worried that this may stifle the creativity of our teachers, but instead we found that our teachers appreciated that their creative efforts went into curriculum design instead of the visual design of classes.
We found great applicability of this concept in face-to-face schools as well. When teachers are given choice in course design, students need to learn how to navigate each teacher’s choices… But when design is standardized, the student can concentrate on the learning of the course, not learning how to navigate (or game) a particular teacher.
Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)