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How to design effective resources

How do you design online resources that are effective and engaging? Read this article to gain useful tips and tricks.

Designing effective resources is similar, yet different to planning regular programmes. Before you get started, here are some points to consider:

  1. Who is your audience? Who are you trying to reach with your resources?
    Think carefully about who you want to support: Is it teachers, students, family, whānau and caregivers? What access to technology and resources do they have? What ages will your resources cater for?
  2. What are their learning needs?
    It is always best to start with a group that you know well. For example, after some initial brainstorming, reach out to one of the teachers who visit regularly and chat with them about the needs of their students. How could your resource support this need?
  3. Do you have the expertise and the capacity to meet these needs?
    Once you have established your audience and their needs, think carefully about the expertise and capacity in your institution. Who do you need to bring together to make this resource a success? What time, space and resources are available? When do you need the resource finished by, and how will you share it with your audience?

Pedagogy

We have talked about Online Learning Pedagogy in Week 1. When you create online resources, pedagogy still plays an important part.

For Inquiry Units, teachers will decide how they use your resource. However, this means you still need to think about what approaches might be suitable for a particular age of learner. Do you include text, images, videos – or a mixture of these? How do you provide a variety of activities that are suitable and engaging for this age group? The teacher will make sure they apply pedagogy that is suitable for their students.

With Activities for students, you are providing the teaching and learning through your resource. There is not necessarily another adult involved that will help the student, so it is important that you think carefully about applying effective pedagogy. Some of the elements we mentioned in Week 1 are still relevant:

  • Encourage reflective thought and action.
  • Enhance the relevance of new learning.
  • Make connections to prior learning and experiences.
  • Provide sufficient opportunities to learn.

How will you address these in your resource?

When it comes to Family activities, you need to design your resource so that adults without an education background can facilitate the activity successfully. What information do they need so they understand what you ask their children to do? Can you design the activity so both children and adults can be active participants?

Universal Design for Learning

Universal Design for Learning should be considered for all of your programme design, whether it’s on-site visits, virtual programmes or resources. We first mentioned UDL in Week 1; let’s go back over some of the keypoints.

Universal Design for Learning UDL minimises barriers to learning and maximises opportunities for all students. To achieve this, educators apply these three principles:

  1. Provide multiple means of Engagement: How do you spark your learners’ curiosity? How do you ensure they stay enthusiastic throughout the session?
  2. Provide multiple means of Representation: Give learners multiple and different ways to access content, such as text, images, audio, video, practical experiences etc.
  3. Provide multiple means of Action and Expression: How will learners show what they have learnt? Design your session to include options like creative response. That way all learners can work to their full potential.

How will you get your resources to your audience?

When you have put a lot of time and effort into a resource, nothing is more frustrating than nobody using it. So how will you get your resource to your audience?

Go back to your answer to the initial question, who is the resource for:

All primary and secondary teachers in Aotearoa New Zealand have access to a laptop and the internet through their schools. If your organisation has a website, you may be able to dedicate a subpage to resources. Make sure you promote the resources to teachers, e.g., through a regular email newsletter, through a teacher event or workshop, or through Social Media if permitted by your organisation. In absence of a website, you can always email a file to a teacher.

Social Media can be an effective way to reach teachers and other adults: Check with your organisation about their Social Media Policy. You might be able to utilise the main organisational channel, or a dedicated education channel could be set up. Highlight resources with engaging images and a short text, with a link back to where the resource can be accessed from.

Many but certainly not all students have access to a device and the internet outside of school. Digital inequity remains to be a big issue in Aotearoa New Zealand today. Depending on their age, they might access a resource through an adult, such as their teacher at school or their parents and whānau. They might not have access to a printer at home or to all resources that you would like them to use. How will you design your activities do that all learners are able to participate effectively?

How do you know it was worth it?

While it might seem daunting to start off with, it can be great fun designing a resource you are passionate about. However, only once it gets used you will find out if it actually works.

It pays to get your resources tested:

Reach out to peers, within your organisation or beyond. Ask for informal feedback or provide them with a checklist.

Find some friendly teachers to give you constructive criticism. Don’t be disheartened when they find areas that need improving: It is literally their job to help people grow.

Trial your resource with learners of a similar age to your target group: Stand back and observe what happens, and only intervene if things are not working at all. This will give you a good idea how students will use your resources when there is no expert present.

Approach several local families and ask them to trial your activities. Provide them with some form or template so they know what feedback you are after. Examples include: What caught your children’s imagination? What did they struggle with? What worked well? What do we need to improve on, and how?

Before you’re ready to publish, make sure you have included a way for the users to share their experience with you. It could be as simple as a social media hashtag # or an email address to provide you with feedback. You could go further and provide a physical space or an online forum where resulting works can be shared.

If you would like to add your thoughts and ideas, please use the comment section below.

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