Free online learning is important to our organization because we felt geographic location and school budgets restricted many educators and students from visiting the Ship History Center in Warwick, Rhode Island. With the stay-at-home orders because of the COVID-19 pandemic beginning in mid-March, the Steamship Historical Society of America, realized what a valuable program it had and began promoting it’s remote lessons on social media to reach more educators, students, and parents in need to entertaining and educating students at home. Providing free online primary sources for STEAM and social studies subjects is mission driven as the Steamship Historical Society of America documents, preserves, and shares the history of engine-powered vessels.
Some of the main advantages of online learning include:
- Access: Providing primary sources online that can be accessed on any device with internet connection allows for more students from all backgrounds to learn from historical sources.
- Differentiation: Tailoring lessons to meet individual learning needs. Students can take more time to think and reflect before communicating; Student-centered approaches; increased variety and creativity of learning activities; shy students tend to thrive online.
- Convenience: 24/7 access to a responsive educational website from any online computer, smart phone, iPad or similar device.
- Interdisciplinary and Cross Content: Proven to boost learning outcomes and enthusiasm around learning, interdisciplinary teaching allows students to think critically, identify their own prejudices, accept the unknown and respect ethical quandaries. It also enables students to understand insights from different disciplines, synthesize information surrounding a topic and, ultimately, offers a more complete understanding of an issue.
- Project Based Learning: students actively explore real-world problems and challenges and acquire a deeper knowledge.
- Enhanced Learning: Research shows increased depth of understanding and retention of course content; more meaningful discussions; emphasis on writing skills, technology skills, and life skills like time management, independence, and self-discipline.
- Interaction: Increased student-to-teacher and student-to-student interaction and discussion; a more student-centered learning environment; less passive listening and more active learning; a greater sense of connectedness, synergy.
- Improved Administration: Time to examine student work more thoroughly; ability to document and record online interactions; ability to manage grading online.
Important Questions for New Online Instructors to Consider:
- How can you accommodate different learning styles online?
- How might you convert the learning activities you use in the traditional classroom to the online environment? Is it possible to use your materials “as is” or will you need to rethink how your material is presented?
- Lecturing is the most common method of presenting content in college classrooms. Why is lecturing a less productive method of teaching in the online environment?
- In the virtual classroom, lectures are short and few. With this being the case, where are the students going to get the information they need to obtain the learning objectives?
- Are video, audio, and real-time activities a benefit in a text-based asynchronous online course? Why or why not?
- How will you inform your students of online expectations and realities and help ensure their success?
- What problems can you anticipate that students might have when beginning your course? How might you smooth the way for your students?
Stephen Merrill, “Teaching Through a Pandemic: A Mindset for This Moment,” Edutopia.
John Larmer, “How Teachers Can Support PBL at Home,” Edutopia.