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Facing up to invisible pupils - will school teachers be able to chalk up success with online lessons?

Published:14 May 2020

If the learning is fun, interactive, and uses cutting-edge technology, the kids will come with you.

The major barriers to mass conversion of conventional to distance learning will be ensuring equitable student access to technology and training teachers, parents and children in using an online learning environment.

That’s according to CQUniversity lecturer Corey Bloomfield, who recently co-authored an article on distance education teachers’ understanding of (and strategies for) student engagement.

“Online students are seldom observable and progress is more self-paced,” Mr Bloomfield says.

“Teachers may not be able to see if they are engaging and understanding by looking at their faces … on the other hand, they can use online tools to introduce frequent ‘check points’ within lessons, where students are expected to respond in some way on their screen to check for participation and to help monitor progress.

Mr Bloomfield discusses the frequent ‘checkpoints’ in more detail on CQUniversity Commentary, a new podcast series produced by CQUniversity.

“Teachers discussed multiple ways that technological tools allowed them to better monitor student progress and engagement, including online quizzes, programs which facilitate written comments and audio feedback, and student observation via web-cameras, with most reporting that students found these approaches engaging.”

Mr Bloomfield says that online technology and pedagogy are helping distance education teachers better monitor and support the behavioural, emotional, and cognitive engagement of their diverse students.

He says that teachers agree that strong relationships with students and parents are necessary for effective engagement.

“The degree to which students engage in learning activities will be influenced by parent, instructor, and peer engagement and interactions,” he says.

“Then, if the learning is fun, interactive, and uses cutting-edge technology, the kids will come with you.

“Beyond just delivery content, or modifying existing content, teachers’ most complex engagement strategy was entitled ‘collaborating’, where they described working jointly with students to create curriculum suited to student purposes.

"There is great practice (digital pedagogy) being done in Australian schools of distance education, of which Queensland has traditionally been a leader."

Mr Bloomfield’s co-authors for the recent article were his CQUniversity colleagues, Dr Lois Harris, Dr Joanne Dargusch and Professor Kate Ames. ‘Catering for ‘very different kids’: distance education teachers’ understandings of and strategies for student engagement’ has been included in the International Journal of Inclusive Education, published by Routledge.