Assignment 1

Assignment 1: The Need for Authentic Activities in an Online Classroom

Newmann and Wehlage (1993) use the word authentic to distinguish between learning that is significant and meaningful and that which is trivial and useless and define the authentic learning. In their definitions, when students achieve authentic learning, students construct meaning and produce knowledge, use disciplined inquiry to construct meaning, and aim their work toward production of discourse, products, and performances that have value or meaning beyond success in school.
Cholewinski (2009) defines authentic learning as made by constructivist with a more complicated meaning, history and use. This definition includes the complex task and real life authentic activities. This study also expresses that authentic learning typically focuses on real‐world, complex problems and their solutions and use role‐playing exercises, problem‐based activities, case studies, and participation in virtual communities of practice.
Therefore the implementation of authentic tasks in online environments may prepare our learners to analyze a variety of situations to live and function in the real world.

Cholewinski, M. (2009). An Introduction to Constructivism and Authentic Activity. Journal of The School of Contemporary International Studies Nagoya University of Foreign Studies, 5, 283-316.
Newmann, F.M.,Wehlage, G.G. (1993). Five standards for authentic instruction. Educational Leadership, 50(7), 8–12.
The following readings explain the importance of including authentic "hands-on" activities when designing your online learning environment. Create a blog post, video or web describing how using authentic “hands-on” activities can aid to engage students in an online learning environment.  Post in your blog by Friday of Week 10.
A few things to think about when creating your post:
Does design for learning work for all students?
How will authentic tasks motivate students in an online environment?
How are authentic tasks in an online environment different from in a face-to-face classroom setting?
What are the advantages of virtual learning environments?


Article describing the importance of providing learners with authentic tasks in an online learning environment.

Article explaining the importance and necessity of virtual chemistry labs.

Article discussing MOOCs: massive open online courses and the reality based activities that can be developed within them. 

Article discussing the value of developing visual constructivist activities to enhance learning for your students.  


  1. Hi Arlene,

    So far, I have only read the Nature article on virtual labs - it resonated as I did my Master's thesis on incorporating hands-on laboratory activities (for K-12). It is great to see how far things have come along, and if the big MOOC providers are willing to share some of the work they have put into developing robust virtual environments, that is a great thing. The article highlighted some major challenges to taking the labs online - acceptance (does the virtual provide the same kinds of experiences?), development (it takes a lot of resource to create great virtual environments and to link remote equipment for experiments), and then update (how can we get more people using what has been developed?). In a project we worked on here at TRU for first year Chemistry labs, we focused on being very explicit in our learning outcomes - if we could demonstrate that our our distance learners were meeting the same outcomes as F2F then we could work on gaining acceptance. There is also a great team here who are working on developing remote labs - - so more steps towards getting authentic experiences for learners at a distance! Thanks for the list of tools, resources and readings - lots to think about and consider.

    1. Hi Michelle

      Thank you for your participation. I find it very interesting that you had to demonstrate that your online learners were meeting the same outcomes as the F2F to gain acceptance of the use of virtual activities. I am facing the same challenge with my admin right now, trying to get them to buy more licences for the software I would like to implement into my classroom to meet the special needs of many of my learners. There are some resources provided that are termed assistive technology, however these tools are very out-dated and unreliable. Any advice on how to gain their acceptance for me to use more virtual tools to enhance student learning in my classroom?


    2. Hi Arlene,

      We really focused on the learning outcomes and assessments - and then our Chem. profs presented our detailed course outlines at provincial articulation meetings. We did get transfer credit for our first year distance labs - but there was quite a bit of hands-on (just not in the lab). I think if you can somehow show that your outcomes and engagement are improved through those types of activities you have a good argument. I think there is also a lot of literature and momentum right now for STEM so you may want to do a bit of digging there to see if there is any evidence (empirical) for incorporating those types of activities.

  2. Hi Arlene
    Authentic learning should be the goal of all online learning as described within the readings. The one problem with online learning is having people buy into the fact the online can be equally and in some better than F2F learning.
    There will be some advantages over F2F - one being accessibility anytime. But I think that not all courses/content will lend itself as being authentic.
    That being said, those courses or content that cannot be authentic can still be used and with F2F to enhance learning. For example, simulators have been used for years for air pilots and where I work simulators are used for heavy equipment operators. These give students the look and feel and of real machines.

    1. Hi Fabian,
      Thank you for your response. It’s great you’re using simulators in the workplace. I often use virtual labs in my F2F classroom when doing science labs with the students, one main reason for this is due to the special needs of my students. The use of simulators is a great example of how virtual hands-on tasks have been introduced into the workplace. Some readings suggest that the use of asynchronous tools such as blogs and wikis, as well as synchronous collaborate tools provide authenticity in any course or online environment. Do you agree or do you think that the use of simulators and other virtual activities are necessary to provide an authentic learning space?


  3. I found the first article, “Authentic Tasks Online” to be interesting in that in creating programs for university students, both undergraduate and masters programs, the on-line format is forcing curriculum developers to be more creative than perhaps they were in the past in terms of student engagement.

    University students are well suited to on-line learning as they are usually abstract linguistic or visual learners to have gotten so far in academia in the first place. The new focus on self-paced and 'authentic' learning is definitely an improvement from the all too common lecture based learning of past decades.

    Since the advent of on-line learning in general, there has been a shift in the power dynamics of teacher/student as students can rate courses and professors on line as well as choose from a greater range of options.

    I found all three examples put forth by the University of Wollongong to be interesting and I hope this kind of authentic curriculum development continues as it can only be a good thing.

  4. Hi Arlene,
    I fully agree with the necessity of authentic learning - not only online but in a F2F environment. Most of my teaching experience has been with secondary students and it's often very difficult to engage them in activities. The language and cultural differences alone - never mind the generation gap - makes even the simplest of tasks challenging, Nature's article about the importance of virtual science labs opened my mind to a whole other way of breaching the gaps in a way youth of today should embrace.

    I have researched a number of sites, but many of them weren't really worthy of sharing. I will email the chart I made for tools as well as some great sites for various subjects. Thanks for these links, they are very useful.

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Thank you for your response. I agree that Nature's article really made me think about how much more education needs to move forward to meet the needs of our students today. The quote: “Our education system is like a big, old, comfortable, fuzzy sweater. It has lasted forever and seems indestructible. But pull on a loose bit of yarn, say by putting lectures online, and the whole thing starts to unravel." really hits the nail on the head when it comes to the lack of acceptance most teachers are facing when attempting to upgrade the way they present curriculum to their students. Hopefully these gaps between acceptance and practice will slowly closed as the online teaching community grows.



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