According to AEE, one of the most important aspects to an engaging course is relevance, meaning that an instructor should provide students with higher-order skills; offer students hands-on learning; leverage every student’s passion and interest to foster more “durable” learning, including learning how to continue the “quest for knowledge” in a constantly changing world; and connecting students to the vast resources, expertise, and social connections available on the internet and through the use of technology.
The connected learning approach offers these four ways to improve a teaching and learning:
1. Students are the focus: According to AEE, learners flourish when they can connect their interests and social engagement to academic studies, civic engagement, and career opportunities.
The course should also be personally interesting and relevant. In connected learning environments, students are empowered to assume responsibility for their learning through developing interest-based groups; having the ability to explore different facets of the interest; increasing expertise; and accessing supports and pathways for mastery through experiences.
2. Learning is supported by peers: Using digital tools to connect academics to a learner’s interest is critical for engaging students, and providing online forums where students can conduct exchanges with peers and friends to contribute, share, and give feedback is the purpose of these tools.
“In these connected learning spaces, students can contribute their expertise and questions to other students’ work in a fun, informal, and socially inclusive manner,” states the brief.
Students can also use digital tools for connecting to professionals or more experienced peers to encourage their interests. For example, those with more experience can help students with goal-based projects and competitive situations.
3. Learning is continuous: Students should have access to course materials and additional materials on campus and off-campus in multiple settings.
Online platforms and digital tools can make these resources abundant and accessible, as well as offer open assessment, badges, and certificates.
4. Students are makers and producers of more than papers: Connected learning asks students to experiment and to create, produce, and design—many aspects needed in a career.
“Digital tools provide opportunities for producing a wide variety of media, knowledge, and cultural content in experimental and active ways,” said the brief.
“Online information and social media provide opportunities for expanding the entry points and pathways to learning, education, and civic engagement for all students,” it concluded. “Educators should explore these different entry points and use them as a tool to increase student engagement.”
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