The Covid-19 has changed the ways that schools and teachers deliver their classes. Asynchronous learning is one term that we hear frequently. Unfortunately, asynchronous learning typically reduces classroom interaction, if not eliminates it completely. Here I am going to discuss one way to retain interaction in the asynchronous classroom using technology.
Asynchronous Learning today
In an Asynchronous classroom, the student will receive a reading and an assignment that consists of some questions. The student will do the assignment independently and submit it to the teacher. The teacher will review the assignments and only at that time they will gauge the student’s understanding. This is a typical situation that the author observed in the K-12 environment and similarly in Higher Education. There is no information on how much time the student takes to learn, if they actually understand the material, or if there are any gaps in the student’s understanding. There are office hours available for the student, but the responsibility is on the student to be aware of their needs. The teachers can put extra time after the submission if they really want to gauge a deeper understanding of the student’s learning.
How to better gauge the individual student learning (and create interaction)
One method to improve student learning in the asynchronous classroom is to use the formative assessment method, where teachers perform continuous evaluations of student comprehension during a lesson. For example, the students will receive a series of questions on a lesson and the teacher will in turn receive feedback from the students on their varying levels of comprehension as they work through the lesson. Figure 1 shows an example of a student seeing a multiple-choice question. Upon answering the question, if the students incorrectly answer the question, they will be directed to one or more materials that will help them learn. The material can be one or more of a website, a video, or a document that the teacher creates.
The teacher can monitor the student’s progress from a dashboard (Figure 2) and see the overall progress for all students. And they can also choose to follow every step of the student’s work from a streaming channel, where they can see a more detailed view of the student’s activities (Figure 3).
The teacher has two options on how to help the student as they progress with their lesson. The teacher can choose to do personal scaffolding, where they have the ability to ask the system to prevent the student from working past the lesson that they are having difficulty and intervene directly by interacting with the student. It is like having an aide in the classroom that asks the student to stop their assignment and let the teacher know that help is needed. Or, the teacher can choose to let all students complete the lesson and then perform class scaffolding based on the information from the system in which area their classroom is having the most difficulties. This would be like an aide walking around the classroom and watching the students doing their learning, and at the end reporting back to the teacher which area the class is struggling.
This may sound like a lot of work for the teacher to do in the preparation. As a matter of fact, technology can take care of this. The teacher just needs to translate their lesson plan into multiple questions and provide references to the materials that can help students learn the topic. For every question, the teacher needs to ask themselves:
- If the student does not answer a question correctly, what should they then read and review? They could provide any material accessible on the internet, whether it is reference material, a video, or even a document that the teacher writes.
- When a student faces difficulty, should the student still continue until they have completed the questions, or should the teacher intervene and help them?
Once the teacher enters this ‘recipe’, the software will take care of the student’s flow, following the diagram depicted in Figure 4.
This application will allow the teacher to receive a better reflection of the student’s learning, create better interaction, and allow intervention when the student faces difficulty. The teacher can continuously monitor the students, but also have a choice to receive notifications on-demand of each student’s progress. The students can learn at their own time, at their own pace, and also receive the necessary scaffolding.
So the next question is: What if the student is the type who learns best with a hands-on approach? Many students exhibit this kind of learning style. We will cover that in Part 2.