Diversity of Learners - Activity Plan

Learning Outcomes
  • Explore potential needs of diverse adult learners in online contexts.
  • Describe benefits and challenges of online learning.
  • Practice responsive facilitation strategies to support common online learning needs.

The focus this week is on the needs of diverse adult learners in online learning environments. What are some of the differences between online and face-to-face (f2f) learning? What are some of the benefits of online learning?  What are some of the challenges? What learning needs might diverse learners experience? What can a facilitator do to support learning in online environments?  

Activity 1 – Introduce your team, topic and activity schedule.

Provide participants with some foundation on this week's topic in a "launch post" in the Diversity of Learners forum. Create a clear outline of the topic that integrates the given learning outcomes. In your activity schedule, provide target due dates (days) for each activity to help participants stay on track and on time.  

We recommend you use the pre-designed activities to maintain your focus on practicing facilitation skills vs. digressing into design tasks. However, if it helps illuminate your topic, you may choose to personalize your mini-session with a brief intro activity/icebreaker to 'set the scene'. Hint: Keep that 'thing' time-manageable for your participants. 

Activity 2 – Provide structured activities to encourage discussion.

Ask participants to explore the sample organizational framework outlined below to broaden and deepen discussion on the needs of diverse adult learners in online environments.

This organizational framework categorizes diverse adult online learning needs in three perspectives: Social Issues, Intellectual Issues, and Learning Environment Management Issues. These perspectives can be represented as "colour buckets" that include a series of guiding questions. The intent is to encourage participant reflection and discussion on key learning needs that often arise among diverse learners in online courses in these areas. We recommend you start three different forum threads, one for each bucket.

Yellow Bucket - Social     

  • Some learners prefer to learn "quietly" - is it an issue? Why or why not?
  • How do learners feel safe - what level of risk is acceptable?
  • How can learners be helped to form connections and community in courses?

Blue Bucket - Intellectual     

  • How much effort should you spend building community in a content-heavy course?
  • How can learners be kept informed on their learning progress as they work through the learning activities in a course?
  • How can we effectively evaluate learning  within our courses?

Red Bucket - Management    

  • How can learners be encouraged to explore the learning environment?
  • What kind of activities should happen before a course starts?
  • What supports could be in place to help learners manage workload?

Around mid-week, your team should identify ideas and themes that are emerging in the participant discussions in the Colour Bucket forums, and plan how to capture or summarize the main points. Providing brief facilitator wrap-up posts will help participants transition to the closing activities. 

Activity 3 - Refocus class discussion on the intended learning outcomes.

Ask participants questions that target the intended learning outcomes. For example: 

  • What are some key supports that diverse adult learners need in online learning environments?
  • What facilitation methods can help you make learning more effective and/or interesting for your learners?
  • How might you adapt your teaching practice to support online learners, or take advantage of some opportunities that online learning enables?

Remember: Give participants clear instructions on how, where and when to discuss their ideas and give feedback on their colleagues' posts in response to the questions.

Last modified: Sunday, 9 July 2017, 9:30 PM