The design of this course is based on sound pedagogical foundations that aim to help students learn the material quickly and effectively within a community setting. This course is inspired by connectivism learning theory, mastery learning, and peer assessment and our own understanding of pedagogical techniques that contribute to student learning and engagement in online communities.
George Siemens in 2004 developed the idea of a new learning theory based on the digital age that was emerging on the Internet. The connectivism learning theory is based in part on the idea that we learn best through communities. Using this as our basis for designing this program, not only are participants led on a journey of mastery learning, but do so with a supportive community of other participants to ask questions, celebrate successes, and encourage risk taking.
The GAFE Class is designed to give students multiple opportunities to learn the content and demonstrate their knowledge. The course consists of four tests that a participant can take as many times as needed to score 80% or higher. Each test gives participants immediate feedback on how they did on the test of their new knowledge as well as which questions they marked wrong. This instant feedback allows participants to study instantly and be ready to retake the test. Participants must pass each test with an 80% pass rate or higher in order to advance to the next unit. Each test is also “Open Web” allowing students to search for answers, or try out questions in a real setting as they take the test. The test is about learning new skills and finding information more than rote memorization. This process is called Mastery Learning, and was shown in a paper by Bloom to increase student performance by about one standard deviation over more traditional forms of instruction and assessment.
The GAFE Course is based on the idea of a learning community. By using groups and forums, participants are expected to be active members of the learning community. Through this active engagement, particpants help each other solve issues, bounce ideas for implementation off each other, and encourage each other to take risks and try new approaches with Google Apps.
Badge Reward System
GAFE Class uses a badge reward system to encourage involvement and to be proud of one’s accomplishments. Badges are awarded to individuals who pass a test, take a risk, get to “inbox zero” and are active within the community. We continue to add badges based on participant feedback.
The efficacy of online learning
In September 2010, the Department of Education issued a detailed report that conducted a meta-analysis of 45 published studies that compare online and face-to-face learning. This analysis demonstrated that online learning methods are, on average, at least as effective as face-to-face learning. We believe that not only can online learning be as effective as face-to-face learning, but built on the foundations of theories that lend themselves to online learning, we can create a powerful learning experience for participants who can’t be face-to-face. This community approach to learning that the GAFE course is based on continues to show positive results in online learning courses.