Top Tips for Designing Online Classroom Exercises

By Liane M. Roth

Navigating the uncharted waters and ever-shifting sands of today’s academic environment is causing current and future educators and instructional designers to seek out innovative ways to address what may be new models of learning for students no longer in the classroom.

While the recent shelter-at-home orders sweeping the nation during the 2019-2020 school year brought virtual learning to millions of students who otherwise attended a brick-and-mortar structure, many colleges such as Pepperdine University have already been preparing instructional and educational technology leaders to design and implement online classroom experiences as a way to construct positive remote learning settings that fit today’s educational needs.

Whether an aspiring instructional designer, a veteran transformative educator dedicated to impacting learners through immersive and engaging technology, those seeking to be leaders in the field need look no further than Pepperdine University’s Master of Science in Learning Design and Innovation, a premiere institution assisting individuals to master the necessary skills that will propel them into the forefront of the educational technology and instructional design..

“Pepperdine University is poised to prepare leaders to conquer today’s unique challenges in the academic arena and beyond” said Dr. Jennifer Miyake-Trapp, Department Chair and Assistant Professor of Education at Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology.

“Through exploration of relevant leadership and learning theories, students will be prepared to design engaging and immersive learning experiences utilizing cutting-edge tools and techniques, becoming educational technology leaders in their respective fields.”

No one knows what the future of education will look like but experts agree the need for qualified leaders who are knowledgeable about instructional and program design in schools, or individuals leading organizations with a need to train staff using technologies and advanced learning theories, will be in high demand.

A Master of Science degree in Learning Design and Innovation through WASC-accredited Pepperdine University provides a curriculum suited for forward-thinking visionaries, offered in an online-hybrid format with one face-to-face weekend in Los Angeles per term. The 20-month, 32-unit program online modules featuring engaging synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences, the opportunity to be on the forefront of virtual or long-distance learning methods, as well as an individualized Capstone Integration Experience that empowers future leaders to design the future of their workplace.

As technology continues to change at a rapid pace, there are many challenges facing leaders who are unfamiliar with distance learning and training methods. Shaping the minds and hearts of learners can be daunting in the best of circumstances; so there are many benefits to learning a variety of competences that will not only increase participant success but ensure a strong, enduring and profitable career in learning design.

For K-12 schools, daunting tasks ahead for the coming school years include explaining assignments via virtual learning lessons by implementing instruction through modeling or elaborating on conceptual curriculum beyond simple classroom instruction through art, literature, music and technology. Creating ways to integrate real-life situations into classroom discussions and assignments such as asking students to detail how problems can be solved through team input and then utilizing student-created study materials and resources followed by an evaluation of progress through formative assessments, quizzes, video reflections and digital exit tickets will take many teachers out of their comfort zone and into an unfamiliar world of long-distance teaching.

A variety of methods for designing online classroom exercises such as Roger Bybee’s 5 Es Instructional Model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate) include mastering the use of multiple communication tools; integrating opportunities for real-time interaction between students, parents and educators; engaging students through brainstorming to discover what they are curious about; integrating research through internet search engines, expert articles and online discussion groups; and focusing on what students already know and how to use that knowledge to improve the online educational experience.

Tech tools to incorporate in the virtual classroom include Google Classroom and Google Classroom Question; free 10-minute classroom videos courtesy of Spark 101 featuring a variety of STEM topics; Padlet; Twiddla.com, an online whiteboard that allows users to mark up websites, graphics and photos or can be used as a blank canvas; Bubbl.us; Edmodo.com; economics-games.com; CNN 5 in Five; and Kahoot!, a game-based learning platform that allows teachers to host games live via videoconferencing or send self-paced games to connect with long-distance learners to encourage engagement in a fun, educational manner.

Online research sites can assist teachers in designing online educational exercises such as Google Search and YouTube; Newsela, which provides reliable instructional materials that allows teachers to personalize instruction through relatable content; Mentimeter, where educators can create interactive presentations and meetings while getting real-time input from distance-learning students with live polls, quizzes, word clouds, Q&As and more; or Smithsonian Tween Tribune, a site that provides grade-appropriate articles and information suitable for classroom curriculum in an array of current and historical topics.

Designing and implementing successful and innovative classroom experiences requires a new set of skills for many in the educational arena; individuals interested in teaching instructional and program design or to lead others in these relevant and emerging fields, should consider an advanced degree with a focus on strengthening such skills will potentially increase salaries and open a wider range of career opportunities.

A Master of Science degree in Learning Design and Innovation through WASC-accredited Pepperdine University provides a curriculum suited for forward-thinking visionaries, offered in an online-hybrid format with one face-to-face weekend in Los Angeles per term. The 20-month, 32-unit program includes work presentations at national and global conferences with faculty support and coaching, online modules featuring engaging synchronous and asynchronous learning experience and the opportunity to be on the forefront of virtual or long-distance learning methods.

Exploring higher educational pathways to implement design and innovation through classroom experiences combined with creativity, enthusiasm and a passion for immersive learning will prepare leaders for the future of virtual learning.

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