Didactical Concept

Background

The following concept was developed for a specific context and target group. In particular, students on the level of EQR 5-7 which have to conduct their studies autonomously. Either because they live in remote areas or due to the restrictions on physical contact arising from the Covid-19-Crisis. Thus, the theme of the learning units can be described as “Mobile – Offline – Asynchronous”. All content and didactical elements are optimized for the distribution in a setting in which internet access is scarce and the primary digital device is a smartphone. In order to account for these conditions, we follow these guidelines in creating learning material:

  • At least 80% of the learning material must be fully accessible offline
  • Learning material must be optimized for mobile devices
  • Student interactions and feedback loops for exercises and submissions must be designed to be asynchronous
  • Self-directed and autonomous learning is assumed to be the default
  • Modular content which consists of self-contained learning units

Complete action

Courses and learning units will follow an interactive and student-centred learning setting, derived from the “principle of complete action”. The principle states that learning takes place in cycles, moving from information, planning and decisions to implementation, review and reflection.


Basically, the students acquire the competences aimed at by the course by working on a wider assignment, where the course content is needed for. This assignment might be a practical problem the students encounter or, if this is not possible, a case study presented by their teacher. It will be divided in several (sub-) tasks, related to the single learning units.

The complete-action approach starts with the first task that has to be solved. For this purpose didactically prepared learning material must be formulated. Every task has a goal that is clearly defined by the assignment. Due to its work-relevance the learners can understand the meaning of the task and know what they are asked to do. The distinct steps must be processed in the correct order to ensure the desired result:

  1. Inform - What is the goal and which equipment and/or additional information do I need?
  2. Plan - How can I proceed? Independent creation of own complete work plan for the task.
  3. Decide - What do I have to do, which implementation approach do I choose?
  4. Implement - Carrying out the assignment
  5. Review - Has the assignment been carried out completely, and in an expert, customer-friendly and appropriate manner?
  6. Reflect - What has to be further improved, also regarding the next assignment? Do I need additional and supplementary knowledge and more generalization about the subject content?

From preparation through to review, participants independently carry out their tasks, as a team or – if this should not be possible – individually. The trainer supports the learners but tasks are to be carried out independently. The interplay between independent work and phases of strong and weak support ensures that the participant increasingly develops the ability to solve problems independently.

Two guiding principles make the complete-action cycle successful:

Flexibility

Assignments always offer some space for decision to the students, thus there are several options to choose from. The principle of action-oriented learning implies that there are several viable ways to achieve the goal of the assignment. This leeway allows the learner to get involved personally.

Quality

If the result is deficient it soon becomes evident which process step had deficiencies due to the clear structure of the complete action. The pursue of these deficiencies allows for a deeper exploration of difficulties in the learning process.

Basic Unit Template

Within this concept, the learning material has a decisive role. It should prepare the student not only to understand the content, but also support him in successfully handling the tasks he has to work on. Thus, each learning unit should

  • start with an orientation,
  • cater to different learning preferences by using a range of didactical elements,
  • give examples on how the content can be applied, and
  • end with a transfer task in which the student has to apply the content.

Orientation

At the beginning of each learning unit there are always

  • a description of the context in which the learning unit is located, and the questions that can be answered or solved with it. The lead question would be “What can this unit help you with?” Usually two or three challenges would be formulated like "A need to coordinate the capacity planning of a project".
  • two or three of the intended results, if possible formulated as competence objectives: After working through this unit,… e.g. ...the student should be able to explain the method to others
Input

The content of the learning unit should be mostly text and illustrations such as graphics, pictures, tables (at least one per page). Additionally, further didactic elements (at least one every 2-3 pages) should be added to each course unit (e.g. quizzes, podcasts, sorting tasks).

These elements are intended to invite you to deal with the topic. The processing of these elements can be part of the results which the students have to hand in at the end of the work. If, for example, a quiz is included, the answers should also be submitted, and in the case of a podcast, perhaps the content could be summarized, etc.

Videos or presentations that can be streamed or downloaded from the Internet and that illustrate or supplement facts are also welcome but should not be central to the learning unit.

Examples and exercises

For each learning unit, the contents should be explained and made comprehensible by means of examples and exercises. These examples should preferably be part of one bigger example within a subject area, better still within the whole course. For instance, a wedding as an example for a course on project management followed up with the question of what tasks and methods to apply during the wedding preparation in the units on planning.

Submissions

For the submission task to a learning unit, students should transfer the learning content to a specific example of their own context or a given example sufficiently different to the examples given to illustrate the content. In case of the illustrative example of a wedding, the application for project management could be the planning of a large excursion. Thus, the students would have to apply the methods and steps to a different field.

The submission task should also include acceptance criteria, letting the student know what is expected from a satisfactory solution and what from a good one and thus provide the learner with constructive feedback.

At the end of each course unit, the examples worked through (and the results of additional tasks) must be handed in. For this purpose, the results should have a form and scope that allows them to be handed in easily even with a poor Internet connection. If necessary, it should be possible to solve the tasks with pen and paper and then to take a picture of the result with a mobile phone and send it in.

Further information

At the end of each learning unit there should be some literature references, further links or similar. In this way students can easily see where they can deepen the knowledge they have acquired.

Examples for learning units in this format can be found here:


Distribution

Online Interactive

All learning units will have a fully interactive online unit, which can make use of the full range of didactical elements used in the unit. Streaming of video and integration of other online tools and templates is possible. This online unit is optimized for viewing on a smartphone or small tablet.

Offline interactive

Students will be provided an app to view and work through the interactive units on their smartphone, laptop or tablet. These offline units will make use of the interactive tools and will also provide access to any embedded video or audio files. Streaming online content or linking to other online tools will not be possible.

Print version

Students will also be able to download a print version of the learning unit. In this unit all texts, images, tables and charts will be available but no interactive tools can be used. Thus, all exercises and submission formats will also be adapted for an offline analogue format.