Online learning in the teaching profession

An opportunity for digital lessons in schools

2020/05/26

Student teachers at TU Darmstadt have already been using the electronic portfolio tool introduced by the Center for Teacher Education (ZfL) to prepare for and follow-up on their practical training units both inside and outside of school for around five years.

Greater acceptance: Students have been working more intensively on digital tasks during the digital semester.

In cooperation with the Institute for General and Vocational Pedagogy in the Department of Human Sciences, the e-portfolio is developing into a great opportunity for student teachers in the current digital summer semester: “Our students are firstly introduced to the digital platform mahara, which is made available by TU Darmstadt, so that they can work on portfolio tasks. In a second step, the students can then use the platform to also develop tasks for pupils”, explains Christine Preuß, Managing Director of the ZfL to describe the potential of online learning in the teaching profession.

The “Digital summer semester” in focus

Lots of things are different this summer semester: Everyday life on the campus is now characterised by digital teaching and online degree courses. Curiosity and delight in experimentation, as well as pragmatism, are required more than ever during the corona crisis. How has TU Darmstadt prepared itself to face up to the challenges, what experience with e-learning can it call on and what is it offering? One focus. One series.

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Julia Nebhuth, a seconded teacher at the Institute for General and Vocational Pedagogy who is responsible for the preparatory and follow-up seminars for teacher training at secondary schools, also believes that the digital summer semester will increase enthusiasm amongst students for working with the mahara platform: “Normally, it is difficult to convey to the students that mahara offers them an innovative, digital learning space that can be used later on for their own lessons. However, there is now greater acceptance for mahara and students are working more intensively on the digital tasks.”

The ability to freely design the tasks

The online tool offers different types of learners the ability to freely design the tasks, e.g. by including image, sound or video material, adding documents and links or keeping a blog. In addition, the feedback function enables lecturers and students to exchange information and ideas interactively. Jan Carl Strack, a seconded teacher responsible for teacher training at vocational schools and a member of the practical training staff at the ZfL, is very interested to see the extent to which there will be long-term changes at vocational schools due to the coronavirus crisis: “It is possible that e-learning solutions will also be given a long-term boost.”

Dr. Ruth M. Mell, a practical training coordinator at the ZfL, describes the expansion of the portfolio as follows: “The portfolio is being increasingly used as a didactic tool during this current period of distance learning. As part of this process, we are transferring the contents of the face-to-face teaching courses to digital settings and providing students not only with written information but also videos and other media – for various forms of both individual and group work. We hope that this will encourage the students to also use mahara in other contexts. It may even be possible to motivate our colleagues in other areas to also work with e-portfolios and mahara. The ZfL is available to assist them in this context.

It will be possible to use the e-portfolio concept for practical training units to a greater extent in the future if the students are still unable to complete their practical training in schools even after the summer holidays. Student teachers at TU Darmstadt could then support pupils at their placement schools with their own online learning with mahara because the schools have also been using this platform since the last school year. This would then create the classic pedagogic “double-decker” effect: The students learn how to use digital tools and can then use them in their own lessons”, says Christine Preuß.