Instructional Methods: Advantages, Disadvantages, and Limitations

In the last few years I have had the opportunity to develop my own lesson material and assessment procedures. I decided to adapt an existing lesson, and make it available as an e-class. The lesson I chose to adapt is about idioms, specifically writing a bucket list.

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Check out the lesson outline and reflection related to this assignment.

In the traditional format, this lesson took about an hour to complete, and was aimed at upper intermediate and advanced speakers. The lesson has a combination of different methods in order to create a more powerful impact on the students (Newby et al. 2014), but the adaption of the lesson to be delivered as an e-class, instead of the traditional face-to-face class is quite new to me, and involved a great deal of new learning. The material that I developed included a presentation about what a bucket list is, a demonstration of my own bucket list, a video comprehension based on the movie, The Bucket List, and a set of reflective questions which led up to students writing their own bucket lists.

Issues to consider

Before deciding on a method, I needed to contemplate a few critical issues as pointed out by Nieman and Potgieter (2008). Firstly, I needed to consider what methods would aid students to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills. Since I have had success with the class in the past, I knew that my process of presentation and demonstration to provide students with the necessary information before they began constructing and internalising their own ideas about the topic would be valid. However, I needed to think about how delivering the material as an e-class may involve the alteration of certain aspects of the lesson. Secondly, I needed to consider how time, space, and available learning aids might affect my lesson preparation and delivery. For example, I needed to gain access to the necessary equipment (cameras and microphones) and software to edit the video I created as part of my e-class. I also required stable and reliable access to infrastructure such as electricity and Internet. Thirdly, I needed to consider whether potential students had the necessary skills, knowledge, and attitude to use the method I employed since the lesson is available to anyone with Internet access. An e-class has the possibility of reaching a diverse and varied population from multiple countries. However, I could not be sure that the students participating in the class were of an appropriate level to understand the class or that they had adequately understood the material. The advantages and disadvantages of the method I employed will be discussed in detail below. 

Target group, context, and content

As I discussed in the introduction, this lesson is aimed at upper intermediate and advanced English Second Language Speakers and delivered online. The main aim of the lesson is to teach students about a bucket list and have them write their own lists.

Methods/Media

The new method I attempted is delivering the class as an online e-class instead of traditional face-to-face instruction. I adapted a well-practiced lesson that I have delivered multiple times into this new format. Usually, the methods I employ involve a video comprehension based on The Bucket List (2007) movie trailer, a presentation explaining about a bucket list, a demonstration of my own bucket list, a discussion based on a list of reflective questions about what students might want to do someday, and finally students writing their own bucket lists.

I altered the structure of the lesson and adapted it to be delivered online. I created a video called “Let’s make a bucket list” in which I guide students through the lesson. It includes a presentation about what a bucket list is, as well as a demonstration in which I share a few of my own bucket list wishes. I usually have the students watch the trailer for The Bucket List and answer a few questions as a motivation activity to introduce them to the topic and encourage participation. As part of the e-class, however, the video comprehension was included midway through the class as a listening comprehension and to provide the students with a concrete idea of what a bucket list is. This part of the lesson included the following material: The Bucket List trailer, The Bucket List questions document, and The Bucket List answers document. In order to provide students with adequate scaffolding before they begin writing their own bucket lists, I would divide the class into pairs or small groups and they would have a discussion guided by “The Someday List” which had questions geared to aid students reflect on the various activities they might want to include on their bucket lists. As part of the e-class, however, this activity became individual self-directed work in which the potential students answered the questions on the list. Finally, after finding out more about the idea of a bucket list, mindfully watching the movie trailer for The Bucket List, and answering questions about what they might want to do someday, students would be prepared to write their own bucket lists using the “Make a Bucket List” document as guidance.

Advantages

There are several advantages to using the e-class method. Kirtman (2009) examines the differences between online and in-class courses, and asks students about the advantages of studying online. Students “pointed to having to be more responsible for their own learning and being able to review material more than once”. Similarly, with the method I employed to deliver my lesson, students have control over the pace and delivery of the lesson: they can pause and replay the video as many times as they need to. Connected with this concept is the fact that material can be accessed at time and place that is convenient for students. Although it is time consuming and costly to develop the material, once it has been create it can be used multiple times. In addition to this, many more students can access the material, than if the class were delivered in a traditional way.

Disadvantages

This method of e-delivery has several disadvantages. Firstly, it is extremely time consuming and costly to develop the material. I needed to have the necessary equipment and software to film and edit my video, which is expensive. It took me a great deal of time to film and edit the final video. Secondly, the lesson is extremely inflexible since there is no give-and-take between students and instructor and between student and student/s. I know from experience that this lesson has the potential to develop on unique lines when delivered in a traditional classroom. This is not possible with the one-way communication of an e-class. In her study, Kirtman (2009:109-110) relates that some students communicated “issues with missing peer interaction and learning from peers”. This is definitely something to consider, and perhaps different methods need to be introduced to ensure more interaction between students. I would argue that this does not have to be true for all online learning, but in the e-class I prepared there is no formal space for interaction beyond the comments section of my blog post where students could interact about the lesson. Perhaps if I were to use this method of teaching in a more formal manner, it would be possible to introduce techniques that would ensure adequate interaction between students. Finally, it is also difficult to establish whether students have understood material and to provide necessary guidance.

Limitations

Choosing to deliver a lesson in this manner is an option that may not be available to all teachers. The required equipment and software is expensive, and it is necessary to be able to record and edit videos. I used Adobe Premier to edit the video, and it was quite a learning curve for me since I had never edited a video until I prepared this class. It was time consuming for me to ensure that all the images used on my documents were original to avoid copyright issues, and I had to take several photographs and use Adobe Photoshop to edit the images to be suitable for my needs. I also needed to convert images, audio clippings, and video footage into suitable formats, which was time consuming. Finally, it is essential to have adequate Internet and other infrastructure. I was severely impeded by issues with Telkom and Eskom blackouts.

Reflection

The conversion of an existing lesson into an e-class was a challenging and valuable experience. I learned how to use several programs that I had never used before, and devoted a lot of time to creating the best product I could under the circumstances. I believe that this method of online delivery is extremely useful since it can reach a diverse audience who can access the material at a time and place that is convenient for them. However, I could not be sure that the material was understood, and I did not get the chance to learn from my students as they experienced the lesson. I feel that the interaction between instructor and students, as well as students with each other, is an important aspect of the learning environment. To be sure, participants could share their experiences and comments in an asynchronous fashion, however as this is voluntary the success of interaction in this manner is limited. Overall, creating an e-class is a valuable method to consider and can be a successful way of conducting classes.

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References

Armstrong, S. (2013). Advantages and disadvantages of online learning [Web log post]. Available from: http://elearningindustry.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-online-learning. (Accessed 25 April 2015).

Kirtman, L. (2009). Online versus in-class courses: An examination of differences in learning outcomes. Issues in Teacher Education, Fall. Available from: http://www1.chapman.edu/ITE/public_html/ITEFall09/12kirtman.pdf. (Accessed 24 April 2015).

Newby, T.J., Stephic, D.A., Lehman, J.D., Russell, J.D. and Ottenbreit-Leftwich, A., (2014). Educational technology for teaching and learning. Boston: Pearson. Fourth Edition.

Nieman, M.M. & Potgieter, C. (2008). Study guide: instructional techniques and multimedia in adult education. Muckleneuk: University of South Africa.

2 minute 52 second theatrical trailer for The Bucket List [Movieclips.]Reiner, R. (Director) (2007). Los Angeles: Warner Brothers. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vc3mkG21ob4. (Accessed 4 April 2015)

Snyman, V. (2015). Let’s make a bucket list [Web log post]. Available from: https://kindleflames.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/lets-make-a-bucket-list/. (Accessed 3 May 2015).

I would like to thank Rheedan for his invaluable help in assisting me with the creation of my video. He allowed me to use his camera equipment and guided me through the process of editing the footage.

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