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How do I extend learning beyond the classroom?

There is real pedagogical value in students taking their learning further once lectures are over. Research tells us that the notion of 'persistence' in learning can lead to a deeper understanding of concepts and the consolidation of skills and knowledge. There are lots of ways in which technology can support the persistence of learning beyond the classroom. This can be designed for both individuals and groups.

There are a huge variety of activities which you can design to support continued learning after a seminar or lecture. To ensure that what you design truly leads to further learning, it is often better to create some kind of task-oriented, structured activity, with clear learning outcomes, rather than simply indicating general follow-up reading, for example.

  • Create an online quiz, which formatively assesses students' understanding of the concepts which have been presented/discussed in class. Quizzes can contain quantitative and/or qualitative responses, and be 'submitted' online, so that you know which students have responded and how they have performed. This data can inform future teaching sessions (for example, if all students are struggling with a particular concept you might re-visit it, or encourage further reading).
  • Collaboration between students after a lecture or seminar is a good way to get them to take their learning forward. A group forum or wiki, or any other kind of shared web space (e.g. an 'ideas board' like Padlet) can be used. A question can be posted on a forum and all students can be asked to respond to the 'thread' (the ongoing conversation between students). In a similar way, a wiki is an open online space where students can share knowledge about a particular concept, adding content and editing each other's responses to create a collaborative piece of work.
  • A reflective blog entry, where a student completes an online journal entry about a piece of learning they have done, thinking back to what they have learned, what they found hard etc. These entries can be commented upon by a lecturer or fellow student, providing a constructive dialogue around the issue, offering praise and encouragement and re-visiting any difficult concepts.
  • E-books and scanned chapters can be good resources for students to access to further their understanding. A key text which builds on what learning took place in a lecture can be a valuable way to consolidate knowledge. However, it is often even better if accompanied by a set of questions or a reflective task which students do in conjunction.
  • Similarly, direct hyperlinks to good external websites which contain content that can take learning forward provide a good way to extend learning beyond the classroom. Some educational or topical websites may have their own interactive content (such as a quiz, forum etc) so you do not need to create your own. Like e-books, though, you may need to be specific and indicate a 'task' to students, to ensure they are engaged in good follow-up learning, and not just web-browsing.
  • Re-presentation of ideas discussed in a lecture or seminar, in another format, can help a student to consolidate their knowledge and, if an assessed piece of work, can show a tutor the level and depth of understanding. For example, students could create their own Prezi as a visual representation of what they have learned.

This concept is about moving traditional 'lecture time' into the 'homework' slot and vice versa. Recorded lectures can be accessed online by students at distance, where they can engage with the content, then come together as a group (in what would be 'lecture time') to discuss the concepts and/or engage in activities which promote further understanding of them. Active learning techniques can be employed, which add structure to this kind of seminar meeting, and make the most of peer learning opportunities. There is sound research evidence to show that learning with others, promoting social constructivist techniques, can expand a person's learning beyond their individual capabilities. Read more about the flipped classroom concept here.

Recorded lectures can be achieved using lecture-capture software such as Echo360 or Camtasia, screencasting tools like JING and Snagit or interactive whiteboard recording tools, like Show Me (iPad).

Assessment and feedback are crucial elements in truly establishing whether learning has taken place, and so we should give students access to this, to enable them to understand and reflect on the extent of their learning and (if feedback is good), take it further or aim to improve it next time. Dialogue after a learning event can take place via an email exchange, comments on a blog, instant messaging or via voice-over IP (VOIP) software, such a Skype. For larger groups of students, organising a webinar, where all students sign in at a designated time to receive feedback and/or exchange ideas, could work well.

Students benefit from talking about what they have learned. If one student has found an explanation difficult, they might benefit from another student (with better understanding) explaining it to them. In turn, that student has the opportunity to consolidate their own understanding through their explanation. This type of reciprocal teaching or dyadic teaching has sound pedagogical value, and contrasts with more didactic approaches which might be experienced through traditional lectures.

Technology can help a great deal with the submission, marking and return of formally assessed work. However, there is a danger that returned work (such as an assignment) only serves as a record of a grade and does not allow the student to further their learning. Further learning can be enhanced not only through the quality of specific feedback provided but by including hyperlinks to useful follow-up material (e.g. study skills links), electronic comments attached to a specific point made or even audio feedback, which a student can download a listen to using, say, a mobile device. Some studies have shown that audio feedback has a more powerful and lasting impact on students than traditional written forms.

Like learning within a seminar or lecture, learning outside of the classroom often works best if it is 'managed' to a degree. Although HE students need to be self-motivated and take their own learning forward through independent study, we can encourage them into good habits. Some of the ways you can manage learning outside the classroom are:

  • Setting a specific task, with a deadline for completion, or submission of work, for example.
  • Following up the learning (and telling students that you will be doing this) via whatever means is appropriate (e.g. a blog comment).
  • Giving students an objective (e.g. a task, piece of reading or research) which needs to be done and submitted before the next lecture, seminar or group meeting.
  • Asking students to work together outside of the classroom and/or prepare something for each other - students feel responsible for each other and are, therefore, more likely to engage.
  • Making content available on a course VLE at a specific time and date (and publicising this) so that students are encouraged to log in. Similarly, giving students a 'window of opportunity' soon after the lecture or seminar to access further learning materials (e.g. additional lecture slides, answers to a quiz etc) might encourage them to take their learning forward sooner, rather than later, or not at all.


Research perspectives

Paper 1

Paper 2

Related digital tools

Quizzes and questionaires




Related staff development

Encouraging persistence in learning CLL