Connect Content and Student Activities

Learning results only from what the student does and thinks; influencing what students do and think is teaching.

Organize your course as an information hub and conversation network focused on the academically oriented activities needed to learn about your course topics. Facilitate your students finding and producing media that makes thinking and learning visible. Create cognitive presence.

What will you have your students do?

How will you curate resources and nodes of connection to people who are experts?

What real (authentic) activities can students do to engage with the ideas, play with them and make sense of them?

How can you have your learners practice problem solving and inquiry?

THEN What technologies can support your students activities and your interactions with them?


What can students do on their own time?3366991042_3e4332d301

  • Read, view, consider, think about, write about and question the information resources related to your course topics.
  • Generate personal learning interests and questions for inquiry (Interest Driven)
  • Do practice exercises, self-assessment quizzes, simulations
  • Learn to learn and inquire
  • Take notes about readings and other content media. Ask questions for clarification. Share them.
  • Develop media production, writing, reading, and research skills
  • Write or record self-reflections, connecting what is being learned to other parts of their lives and their personal interests.
  • Develop a personal web space as portfolio and blog platform


What activities can students do best with a small group of co-learners?

Peer Supported. Shared Purpose. Production Centered.

  • Service Learning and Community Engagement projects.
  • Collect and share information related to research topics.
  • Help each other with concepts, questions
  • Generate presentations of ideas learned through multimedia. “Student generated content.”
  • Support each other with peer assessments, assignment review, shared quizzes, exam preparation
  • Group size is determined by whatever you are hoping they do together.


What activities flourish in the networked conversation of the whole community? 

  • Write responses to intriguing questions about current issues: confront & challenge
  • Interact with comments on others blog posts and reflections
  • Create a shared annotated library (Diigo is an example)
  • Create a continued connection after the course concludes

Regular and responsive engaged interaction among students is developed through active learning strategies, reciprocity, cooperation, collaboration, and emphasizes time on task.

Use active learning strategies and make activities Production-centered. Once you’ve decided upon activities and content resources to use with them, you choose where, when, with whom, format, expectations, examples – instructions and due date.

Make decisions about which activities are Openly Networked, which are open only to the class group, and which communications need to be private between you and your individual students. Conversations about privacy with colleagues and your students help define this.

Use the information design ideas of Consistency, Relevance, Adjacent, Proximity to organize your content. Consistently name information and activities within your course.

Content Presentation

How will you present content?

Where will you have students interact? in person, online, using what collaboration tools?

Have you contacted Library staff for help finding relevant, easy-to-distribute, and accessible media for online students? Curating exemplary resources, materials, and media supports students’ information literacy and learning. Consider OER’s [Open Educational Media]

Do you have a clear set of content resources that will be used to present each of the topics and subtopics of your course content?

Do you have specific learning purposes for using these resources? Be sure to explain them to your students.

What are your strategies for students’ practice and interaction with this content? Do you have opportunities for guided and independent practice solving ill-defined problems such as case studies?

Do your resources and activities provide for a variety of media types?

How do you evaluate websites and media for use as content resources? What standards do you share with your students for evaluating information sources?

Do you have media projects in mind for a production staff to produce? Do you want to learn to make your own multimedia?

Do you use questions to help students focus on the important concepts of a reading, slideshow, video or website? When you ask students to read, provide focus questions and key concepts so students know what they need to learn from the reading. This is helpful when you assign a movie, web resource, slideshow, or any content resource. Tell students why they should take the time to read [or view] the information and what they might learn from the resource. What questions are the ones you would ask yourself as an expert when reading the content? Teach them your problem solving questions. How do they think about this content? How would you like them to critique it? Tell them.

An example of a tool that helps students see your questions and make comments about a video is You can also post pdf documents in Google docs and ask for student comments. You can begin annotating and ask them complete the annotations as a group.

Have you included peer review as part of your strategies? Comparing their own solutions to others’ helps students see different perspectives. Evaluating others’ work gives them practice evaluating their own. They become aware of exemplar work as well.  Often the review is not as helpful to the one whose work is being evaluated as it is to the evaluator. It is still a valuable strategy.

How do you have students do self-reflection and self-assessment of their own work and learning? Have students write weekly blogs about what they are learning. Aggregate the blogs in one space to make a discussion and comments easy to do for students.

Time Management – Yours and your students

Calendars, announcements, reminders, real due dates, consistency in structure and management of activities; create a workflow that has real deadlines and need to know. Revise with student input and choices of activity /topic focus.

Overlay time last. 
Organize your information resources and activities by topic rather than week. The topics of study may not take the same amount of time to complete. You can also have another topic begin before the last ends. Include an Orientation unit [set of activities] and Summary unit to begin and end your course, along with reminders to stay in touch with their new personal learning network. Summary activities can be reflection and peer assessment of projects, papers, and presentations. Include these collaborations as a way to establish their course learning. You can give direct feedback to their work since you’ve already had time to review.

Calendars, To Do lists and consistent due days and times are helpful to students learning to manage their time differently online. Even though you’ll most likely have students do some things regularly every week, like blogging and reading, some things are not done weekly. For example, project milestones are especially helpful but won’t happen every week.

Dissonance between established knowing and new information is created as students learn. “Crisis Points” are moments during your course when students are most likely to need support and assistance. … If these crisis points can be identified in advance, you can make sure that you have a plan in place to mitigate student problems and avoid a lot of frustration in the process. For example, they should already know the quickest way to get an assignment question answered without emailing you.

What causes stress and anxiety during the semester? When do they happen? – For you and your students?

Example: During approximately the 3rd week of a regular semester students realize the enormity of what they must do and learn. Panic ensues. Be prepared to communicate help during that point.

Which concepts tend to be most difficult for your students to learn? How can you help? Present the ideas with more than one media. Use text, diagrams, audio and video to reinforce the connections among the ideas.

  • Concept maps help with complex vocabulary.
  • Timeline software can help students recognize how events interact.
  • Diagraming a process is also helpful. Have groups of students teach each other through a shared wiki like Google docs.
  • Create a just in time screencast where you explain the topic from more than one perspective…. Demonstrate how to approach and then do an activity. Share the questions you as yourself as you work your way through a problem.

Is there an annual campus activity when students just won’t be focusing on classes? Schedule the due date of major projects at another time.

Your travel to conferences, your best friend’s wedding, publishing deadlines, end of term grading – affect your available time. Note them in your course calendar when having projects due.

Determine the best time of day to schedule your presence in the course. Develop a regular habit of being present at certain times each day, most days… to connect, answer emails, and communicate.

Many students study during the late hours. Have due dates at noon rather than midnight when no technical or assignment help is available. Have things due when you will begin to grade and give feedback, which becomes the real deadline.


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