Too often, I see online learning delivered in a traditional model through the internet. Teachers often fit into the traditional modes of teaching, even with the plethora of opportunities available to online students.
This semester, I came to an assignment in the English class in Aventa that required students to create a webpage. Some of my colleagues, when presented with assignments like this, allowed students to create a PowerPoint instead, however, I wanted more out of my students. We live in a digital age, where delivering content on the web is going to be a reality for the majority of not all future workers.
A friend of mine shared a story of a conversation his daughter had with a friend. His daughter had been a long time participant of an outdoor leadership program and had recommended it to her friend. Her friend went home, and tried to find this program on the internet, but to no avail. The friend returned to school the next day and said that the program didn’t exist. To this individual, if a company didn’t have a website, then it didn’t exist in the world. The influence and importance of your web presence as a business professional is ever becoming more and more vital.
Yet, as my students came across this assignment, they hit a wall. Instead of following the assignments directions and searching for a guided web development tool online, they were instead stopped in their tracks. Those few students who had worked ahead, simply skipped over this assignment, so that when I came to it in our weekly Elluminate sessions, I quickly realized the depth of my students apprehensions. After some digging, they began to share their apprehensions about building a website and not knowing where to begin.
From this, arose a new learning target. I wanted students to know and understand that building a simple website was as easy as making a paper in Word. I wanted them to learn how easy website creation could be, and apply that to building their own website for this assignment. After exploring the web for resources, I created two pathways for students to reach this goal:
- Weebly is a guided point-and-click web development tool for low technical investment. This takes all the guess-work out of website creation and allows you to focus on the content. You can choose from a variety of designs and build out your pages with ease. This pathway was meant for even the most hesitant students.
- WordPress is a blogging tool that many small business now use for their website, allowing students with more advanced skill to create a stronger product. This is much more akin to using programs like Microsoft Office: it is simple to gets started with, but allows the power to create some advanced websites. In fact, WordPress is becoming more and more a website creation tool of choice for small businesses. To accompany this, I created an online course, showing students how to use WordPress to create a simple website.
The reactions to these modifications were astounding. Students who were nervous and frustrated before, now enjoyed creating their websites. The hesitation to get started was still there, but as one and then another of my students built their websites with these tools, the dominoes began to fall. It was inspiring to see these once nervous students now comfortable enough to explore the world of web content creation.
So, I ask each of you, push the envelope in your online classrooms. Expect students to create web content, to participate in relevant blogs, and to use the digital resources of a post-information age.