Participatory Online Learning Environment for Undergraduate Field Experience

Online learning environments that have purposefully designed learning activities and resources better support student learning. These online environments can provide pre-service teachers with the tools and resources they require while they are teaching in schools during practicums, or field experience. Additionally, for instructors teaching practicum courses, the accessibility of the online learning environment provides opportunities to effectively disseminate support information to their students, and respond to the diverse needs of the students.

Dr. Jennifer Lock led a two-year study that focused on designing the online learning environment for field experience using Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Using the Learning Management System, D2L, the research team used a design-based learning methodology to redesign the four online learning course shells for field experience. They used the principles of UDL to help foster engagement and deep learning for the students in the course.

Iterative Improvements

From a student’s perspective, the re-design of the course shells provided them with new introductory videos from instructors, additional teaching and learning documents and videos, and lesson planning templates. All of these resources were easily accessible to students during their placement settings. The course shell also provided activities and spaces for critical reflection and dialogue with their peers regarding their daily practicum experience. The research team also created an instructor course shell that provided an opportunity for instructors to share resources and to collaborate amongst themselves. Resources specific to teaching online (e.g., exemplars, best practice guides, etc.) were also shared in order to improve the quality of instructors’ online teaching pedagogy.

Due to the nature of design-based research, the study allowed for multiple course shell re-designs. Changes made in the course shells were indicative of data collected from stakeholders connected to the field experience (e.g., instructions, students, academic staff), as well as from curriculum and document analyses. Overall, findings from the data highlighted: importance of visual organization of materials; focus for activities to be connected to their experiences in the teaching placements; and the need for ongoing technology support for instructors. These central concepts informed the first design on the online environments, as well as directing future changes. In addition to improving the online course design, the study also recommends the adoption of technology coaching and workshops for instructors teaching in the online environment.

Two-Fold Benefits

This project had positive implications for the Werklund School of Education. As the Bachelor in Education program moves to a blended and an online delivery format, instructors must develop their online teaching capacity. This project created a space for conversations around online teaching in an undergraduate level to emerge. Not only that, but instructors were also supported in thinking about how the design of the online environment can impact student learning, and how UDL principles can be used to create learning environments that foster engagement and deep learning.

Second, as a result of this project, diverse opportunities for educational development of instructors have been offered. Resources on online teaching were created and shared with instructors. A workshop on D2L, specifically tailored to the needs of Field Experience, was offered. Technology coaching was made available to instructors to provide one-on-one support in the design and use of the online environment. All of that has created spaces for conversation around online teaching pedagogy, which we hope will enhance the online teaching practices in the School.


See more from Dr. Jennifer Lock on her profile


Connected Citations (Select)

Lock, J., Johnson, C., Altowairiki, N., Burns, A., Hill, L., & Ostrowski, C.P. (in-press). Enhancing instructor capacity through the redesign of online practicum course environments using Universal Design for Learning. In S. Keengwe (Ed.), Handbook of Research on Blended Learning Pedagogies and Professional Development in Higher Education.  Hershey, PA: IGI Global Publications.

Ostrowski, C., Lock, J., Hill, L.S., da Rosa dos Santos, L., Altowairiki, N., & Johnson, C. (2017, January). A journey through the development of online environments: Putting UDL theory into practice. In. P. Vu, S. Fredrickson, & C.S. Moore, Handbook of Research on Innovative Pedagogies and Technologies for Online Learning in Higher Education (pp. 218-235). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.

Johnson, C., Hill, S. L., Lock, J., Altowairiki, N., Ostrowski, C, da Rosa dos Santos, L., & Liu, Y. (2017, September). Using Design-Based Research to develop meaningful online discussions in undergraduate Field Experience courses. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(6), 36 -53. Available Online. 

Lock, J., Johnson, C., Altowairiki, N., Ostrowski, C., Hill, S.L., Da Rosa dos Santos, L., & Liu, Y. (2016, November). Shared Learning as Partners in Research: Experiences through SoTL. Presentation at 2016 Symposium on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. November 10 -12, 2016, Banff, AB.

Lock, J., da Rosa dos Santos, L.,  Altowairiki, N., Johnson, C., Hill, L,  & Ostrowski, C. (2016, June). Implementing Universal Design for Learning in online learning environments for Field Experience: A design study. Presentation at the Canadian Society for the Study of Education Conference, May 28 – June 1, 2016, Calgary, AB.