Milí kolegové, sekce Didaktické aspekty distančního vzdělávání je třízena do jednotlivých kapitol, které co do témat postupují od obecnějších otázek ke konkrétnějším. Pokud vás zajímá nějaké konkrétní téma, není nutné číst obsah celé sekce – a přejděte raději rovnou k tomu, co potřebujete. Učíte-li však distančně krátce či poprvé, věříme, že by se vám mohlo hodit pročítat jednotlivá témata v pořadí, které vám zde takto navrhujeme.

Dear colleagues, the section Didactic Aspects of Distance Education is divided into chapters that progress from more general issues to more specific ones. If you are interested in a particular topic, there is no need to read the whole section - just pick and choose and go straight to what you need. However, if you are a short-term or first-time distance learner, we believe you may find it useful to read the topics in the order we suggest here.


General discussion on the forms of online teaching

When planning your teaching, you can choose from multiple forms of online instruction that combine elements of synchronous (real-time and timetabled, in-person teaching) and asynchronous teaching in different ways. Which form to choose can be determined by the way in which the in-person teaching has been conducted. Some forms of online teaching are more suited to lectures, others to exercises centred on the application of the material, and others to seminars where discussion predominates, etc.

This page briefly describes three basic forms of online teaching that are recommended for teaching at the Masaryk University Faculty of Arts.

Online teaching can be comparable in quality and effectiveness to in-person teaching. However, it is necessary to take into consideration certain facts, first of all:

  1. It must be kept in mind that students are studying full-time or in combined study mode, so simply providing sources of information for self-study is considered insufficient;
  2. Care must be taken to ensure that the content of online teaching is in line with the valid accreditation;
  3. It’s necessary to take into account the credit load of the course so that learners are not overloaded, but also so that the time they have to devote to their studies is not left unused;
  4. Technologies are merely the means of online teaching; it’s still the teachers who guide the teaching, not the chosen online teaching tools;
  5. Online teaching requires a high degree of flexibility, responsive organization, and also consideration and care for learners.

Sources of information vs. study materials

In online teaching, various study materials are used to a much greater extent than when teaching in-person. It’s therefore very important to pay attention to their quality. An article or book, or section or passage of the same, is not a study material, but only a source of information. Study materials support active learning, which learners can to some extent manage themselves. Study materials not only contain essential information, but also questions or tasks for learners to solve and for teachers to provide formative feedback on. In most cases, the high-quality study materials you create now will be transferrable to in-person teaching.

Information source: not primarily created for teaching purposes. These mostly refer to scholarly articles and books, websites, video, or audio recordings, etc.

Study material: is directly created for teaching, either by the teachers themselves or by colleagues. These are worksheets, presentations, instructional videos, short texts, quizzes, etc.

Synchronous online teaching (webinars)

This involves the regular meeting of students and teachers according to the standard timetable via one of the  video conferencing applications. These regularly organized webinars can be seen as a very convenient tool for maintaining the stable study regime that learners and lecturers are used to. The webinars themselves are often not very different from in-person classes. It’s this similarity that gives the teaching assurance, as it takes place within a framework that is familiar to learners and teachers, and what differs is only the environment, to which participants need to acclimatize. In the case of synchronous online teaching organized according to a timetable, it’s also possible to assign tasks to learners to complete at home either individually or in groups. In such a case, it’s necessary to take into account how many credits students are to receive after completing the course and the resulting time they are to spend on homework.

For which type of teaching is this suitable?

Webinars are particularly suitable for seminars in which learner cooperation and discussion predominate. Lectures for lower-year students can also be implemented in this way, where it’s necessary to continuously check their understanding of the basics of the given field or to allow immediate feedback, asking questions, etc.

Recommendations for this type of online teaching

The key is to make sure everyone has their cameras on. Without them, teaching is very exhausting and ineffective. The attention spans of learners with cameras off can be very limited, as can their willingness to participate and interact in the lesson. All this leads to a possible deterioration in learning outcomes and lower satisfaction with the teaching experience.

How best to work with the attention of learners is a more important question to reflect on than previously. It’s advisable to alternate webinar activities after about 20 minutes, and it’s also good to include breaks. This will keep learners’ attention at a high level and facilitate the easier and also more sustained retention of material. In addition, if learners are attending several webinars in a row, their attention and physical comfort will be at a very low level, and it’s sensible in response to modify the teaching by activating learners.

The online environment offers a range of options that are either completely absent or extremely inconvenient to use in the classroom, even though their effect on teaching is fundamental. These are applications that help to fulfil didactic principles and teaching objectives. Familiarize yourself with some of them beforehand and try them out.

Webinars are similar to seminars and are, therefore, characterized by a high degree of interactivity and cooperation. In this case, you can proceed as you would in a in-person class. At the same time, it’s necessary to keep in mind that everything takes longer in online teaching. For example, when you ask a question, you have to wait much longer (up to about 15 seconds) for learners to think about the answer, volunteer to speak, turn on the microphone, and start answering.

Flipped classrooms

These involve a specific combination of asynchronous and synchronous teaching, characterized by the fact that learning begins in the learners’ home. You may already be familiar with this form of teaching in the context of in-person education, and it can be used very conveniently in online-only teaching. The flipped classroom is often subtitled “theory at home, practice at school”. This means that learners get the required theoretical foundation through high-quality study materials that they study at home. Most often the material comprises videos made by teachers themselves, accompanied by a set of questions or tasks, both of which are included within the e-learning course. This form of online teaching is therefore quite demanding in terms of preparation. After learners have independently acquired the necessary theoretical background, they meet with tutors in webinars, where they consolidate the learned material through its application in different situations, in learning tasks or in discussion. In a flipped classroom, learners have greater responsibility for their own learning and teachers become guides. Learning is much more effective. Learners understand the material better and retain it more easily.

For which type of teaching is this suitable?

The flipped classroom method is suitable for practical exercises in which it’s necessary for learners to be able to apply the material in practical situations.

Recommendations for this type of online teaching

In this case it’s imperative to take into account how many credits learners are expected to earn upon graduation and the resulting time they are expected to spend on homework.

It’s necessary to divide the course content into appropriate blocks, so that theoretical parts are followed by practical parts. This will require restructuring the content and – in many cases – reducing it.

With the flipped classroom often comes the question of how to motivate learners to prepare theoretically at home for a lesson in which they are supposed to apply their knowledge in practice. The answer generally runs along the lines of “that’s the learners’ responsibility, not the teachers’”. Nonetheless, teachers should prepare their lessons in such a way that those who, for various reasons, have not been able to study the necessary theory at home can participate (but not by resorting to lecturing at the beginning of the lesson).

Typical for flipped classrooms is the creation of customized instructional videos that present basic theory for self-study. It is, therefore, a rather demanding task, but it does bear fruit. There are certainly numerous very well produced videos on the topics you need. However, if you make the tutorial video yourself, you’ll both tailor it to your students’ needs and imbue your online teaching with a social dimension (it’s important to be in contact with your learners as often as possible, even if only by video). When we talk about instructional videos, we’re not talking about a 90-minute recording of a lecture, but short videos summarizing the essentials.

Guided self-study and consultation

Guided self-study is primarily founded on really high-quality study materials as well as sources of information that teachers provide to learners, and is combined with various types of assignments related to understanding the material. The guidance essentially emanates from the tasks that learners complete after studying the materials. When learners hand in their solutions to the assignments, tutors provide formative feedback in response. This guided self-study is usefully supplemented by occasional group tutorials, where learners can ask questions about what was not clear to them and where tutors can check at a glance whether and how learners understand the material.

For which type of teaching is this suitable?

This form of online teaching with a dominant asynchronous teaching component is particularly suited for lectures where learners need to have a good understanding of the material but where interactivity, cooperation, or application of the material is not required. This form of online teaching is also suitable for those courses that target, for example, academic writing and such like.

Recommendations for this type of online teaching

It’s worth reminding ourselves that these learners are studying full-time or in combined study mode, and therefore it’s not possible to prepare the teaching as we would for self-study courses. Teachers must still be prepared to meet and consult with learners. It’s certainly not necessary to consult all learners at the same time every week, especially if there are a large number of them. But it is advisable to agree on the criteria and purpose of consultations.

In order to achieve truly guided self-study (not just self-study), it’s necessary to ensure that study materials and sources of information are high-quality and up-to-date. These should be supplemented by questions or tasks that promote the retention and understanding of the subject matter, and that allow both learners and teachers to monitor how learners are doing and to adjust the teaching accordingly.

Study materials and information resources should be stably located in only one environment (not across several different platforms) so that they are easily accessible to learners. In this environment it should be absolutely clear which materials to study and when, which assignments to complete and when, how and in what timeframe they’ll receive feedback on their work, and (if they are collecting points or credits, for example) how many points they need to earn to successfully complete the course.

The materials for this page were provided by colleagues from the MU Pedagogical Competence Development Centre and the Institute of Educational Sciences of the MU FA.

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