Post-pandemic online learning: What’s next?
The pandemic has changed the way we work and learn. Overnight, almost everyone, regardless of their age or technological expertise, learned to use virtual tools like Zoom.
Given the ready availability and widespread experience with virtual communication tools, augmenting online asynchronous classes with synchronous options makes sense. However, adding a required, lengthy synchronous session to a course designed for asynchronous delivery limits its flexibility. It can lead to the same “Zoom fatigue” issues we saw during the pandemic. One way to address this is with a flexible bischronous model where learners attend a well-planned and succinct virtual mini-session that incorporates a brief lecture and breakout groups. Learners who cannot attend are provided a makeup assignment that mirrors the virtual session. Bichronous classes involve the learners taking part in asynchronous preparation before the synchronous session and then completing asynchronous wrap-up activities afterward. The Virtual Mini-session Model below shows the timeframe for a 30-minute synchronous session (in minutes in the first column) that augments an asynchronous course. The 30-minute time frame can be a convenient option for college students taking multiple classes or busy working professionals who would find it challenging to carve out long periods for lengthy virtual courses.
Questions for Discussion
- What do you think of the virtual mini-session model as an add-on to asynchronous online classes or self-paced e-learning?
- What other strategies might we use to improve this model?
It is vital to bring people together to discuss learning content and exchange ideas. The virtual mini-session model facilitates this. I have attended classes that only offer a pdf of a slide deck with no lecture or context to bring it to life and find it less valuable. These sessions help learners feel less isolated. One area we need to be mindful of to make these sessions valuable is to ensure there is some concrete activity that allows for applying new knowledge. This application transfers the internal ideas and brings them out into the external world for all to see, enforcing the learning process thru discussion and activity and helping to move information into long-term memory.
I have been in the mini-session model before and I think the connection that it provides for an online class because you are able to ask questions and actually speak with the professor to get their prospective on exactly they expect from the student. Also having a makeup assignment available is very helpful for those who schedule is not always flexible.
I like the concept of the mini-session model, as someone has spent many hours on zoom for the past three years. I think this is the strongest method I’ve seen for getting maximum involvement from people who may not learn as well through a virtual lecture courses.
I honestly prefer this virtual mini session model being added to asynchronous courses. Zoom fatigue is definitely at an all time high these days but I believe the mini session can help encourage engagement not only between the instructor and the learners but amongst the learners as well. The mini session can also take place of office hours because the questions one person may have during office hours could quite possibly be the same questions other people have but either didn’t have the time or confidence to show up to office hours. Lastly, mini sessions allow the learners to make sure they are on the right track in terms of meeting deadlines and understanding the material the way it has been intended to be understood.
An improvement to this model could be recording the mini session and posting it or personally emailing it to the students who were not able to participate. Makeup assignments are nice but still getting an opportunity to experience the mini session to some extent could be more beneficial.
I think the virtual mini-session model is a great way to keep people engaged. I believe this was used in one of your courses, and I thought the makeup assignment for individuals that were unable to attend allowed for flexibility with schedules while still ensuring the topic was being explored!