Student attitude and quality materials count

The elements contributing to a successful online learning environment by Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa⎮Part Two⎮3 min read
Student attitude and quality materials count

In Part One, Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa reviewed the factors teachers should consider before transitioning classes to online courses. Now in Part Two she explores how student attitude and the quality of materials contribute to successful online learning outcomes.

Student Factors

Second, there is evidence that students’ attitudes (individually and collectively), as well as their self-perceptions as successful learners (or not) has one of the largest effect size impacts on outcomes (Hattie, 2012). While not the only factor, if students think they are not going to be successful, this leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy of failure (Zimmerman et al., 2017). On the other hand, if a student has a growth mindset (Dweck, 2006), an open attitude towards new experience, and believes that they can and will learn with the appropriate effort, then that student typically does well (Tang et al., 2019), which has also been shown in online settings (McClendon et al., 2017). This suggests that attitude, even more than aptitude, plays an important role in learning outcomes (Artlet, et al., 2003; Côté, 2000). In related research, there is strong evidence that self-regulation and other executive functioning skills account for almost double the impact of native intelligence related to learning outcomes (Duckworth, 2011; Moffitt, 2011). This means that being able to focus on a task and stick with it are more important than just being born smart. It also means that a good attitude towards the new online learning modality is vital for successful learning.

Quality Materials

Third, online learning (including virtual classrooms) pose many challenges to both teachers and students in terms of materials because of choice. “Analysis paralysis” can occur when a person enters the virtual classroom as there are many more tools available to enhance the teaching-learning exchange in an online learning platform than in a face-to-face classroom (Crawford-Ferre, 2012). This is due in large part to the thousands of EdTech applications and plug-ins now available that work in large part to facilitate correction and rehearsal of the more technical or mechanical aspects of learning (i.e., checking for comma splices), leaving more time for teachers to spend on the human aspect of the teaching-learning process, such as taking the emotional pulse of learners and motivating them to reach their own potential in the subject.

Moreover, typical tools like quizzes, discussions, and small group work can be used for additional learning objectives. For example, self-corrected quizzes can be used to increase the amount of low-stakes testing that enhances memory (Grisson et al., 2011). As memory and attention are vital for learning, learning itself increases. This automated tool allows the instructor to spend more time on human-dependent teaching and learning strategies, such as helping students understand why they erred in their thinking processes.   

Similarly, online discussions on a topic can be held over time asynchronously, which permits a dialogue to develop amongst learners, rather than being a single learner’s simple, solitary reflection. This means that in addition to hearing individual responses, a community of learners is constructed through the exchange which benefits perspective-taking, research, debate and overall communication skills.

Small-group work can benefit learning (Aldrich, 2016). Setting up such groups takes about 10-seconds to structure in an online videoconferencing context like Zoom’s break out rooms, whereas rearranging students in a physical classroom can take many minutes. The time savers on the organizing-end create additional time for deeper discussion and better use of contact time with the students.

In Part Three, Tracey discusses the phenomena of online learning and how it benefits student engagement.


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