Experiential Learning in the New Era of Online Education

Using simulations to foster student-centered learning.

Tweet from @Ms__Howard about optics of the human eye.
CK-12 Simulation: Contact Lens

Imagine if “pandemic education” was all that you knew. Constant changes in the classroom, new policies and procedures, and frequent pivots to and from online learning. Starting a teaching career during a pandemic has been eventful, to say the least. After graduating from teachers’ college in August of 2020, I accepted my first occasional teaching position at one of my local school boards in Ontario, Canada. Given the increased need for online learning opportunities, I soon transitioned into my current long-term position teaching virtual high school classes and set about teaching students science while aiming to inspire leadership values in them.

My purpose in education stems from four leadership values that I aspire to practice and seek to inspire in each of my students: inclusiveness, creativity, collaboration, and resiliency.

Aligning Practice with Purpose

At the foundation of my philosophy is building strong relationships with students — getting to know not only their strengths and needs but also their interests. Keeping students engaged while meeting their needs can be challenging in an online learning environment. With limited funding and personal teaching experience, I quickly realized that I needed to find a free platform that would enable me to foster student-centered learning opportunities. Encouraging students to utilize their creativity regarding what they learn and how they express what they learn can lead to tremendous personal and academic growth.

Using CK-12 Simulations to Transform the Classroom Dynamic

As a science teacher who prioritizes hands-on learning, I typically provide my students with at least one lab-based activity each week. Ideal for a face-to-face classroom but inequitable for online classes. My search for free online experiential learning opportunities for STEM classes is what led me to the CK-12 platform.

CK-12 stands out from other online learning platforms.

It is organized, user-friendly, and offers a variety of experiences — from interactive texts, to practice questions with real-time feedback, to guided simulations. CK-12 supports students at all stages of their learning, whether they need to review a topic or could benefit from a “next-step” extension.

With CK-12, I feel confident having my students work through the simulations on their own.

Incorporating CK-12 Simulations into my lessons has increased student engagement and enhanced my ability to provide differentiated instruction that is suitable for each individual learner. Most simulation platforms that I have used in the past require extensive teacher guidance which takes away from the exploratory nature of the learning process. With CK-12, I feel confident having my students work through the simulations on their own because there are excellent worksheets, texts, videos, and challenge questions to support and stimulate their learning.

My role as a teacher has transitioned from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side.”

Tweet from @Ms__Howard and included CK-12 Simulation on physical and chemical changes.

Whether we are learning about the chemical reactions involved in baking or about vision and eye health, there is a CK-12 simulation to enhance my lessons and help motivate my students. My role as a teacher has transitioned from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side.” I have finally fostered the classroom dynamic that I thought was only possible in a face-to-face setting.

Wondering Where to Start?

Adapting to new educational platforms can be overwhelming. Despite the information and activities being readily available, it can be difficult to figure out where to start and how to utilize such resources in the classroom. When it comes to CK-12, I recommend starting with one piece, such as the simulations. Prioritize enhancing your lessons with the simulations while giving yourself time to learn about the other features (i.e., FlexBooks, Adaptive Practice, PLIX Interactives, etc.). With the help of CK-12 simulations, you can easily transition your virtual courses from teacher to student-centered — which is essential in this new era of online education.

Written by Hannah Howard (BMSc, OCT)
Edited by Katie Hamon, CK-12 Foundation

Interested in sharing your experience using CK-12 through a guest post or conversation with our team? Reach out to us at share@ck12.org.

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Note: The philosophy referenced in this article is that of the guest author and does not necessarily reflect any official philosophy or policy of the CK-12 Foundation.

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