Saturday, June 13, 2020

E-Lesson Study: Using Online Platforms for a Collegial Collaboration on Lesson Research and Development

by Rolando Tan
The global pandemic has upended many academic activities the world over. Professional development programs for teachers are not even spared. Alternative methods of learning have become more of a necessity than merely an add-on in many academic activities, considering that physical distancing as a public health measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus is in place. In this article, I would like to share my thoughts on how professional development programs like Lesson Study can still be implemented using different online platforms for a collegial collaboration on developing research lessons.         
Learning Management Systems and Video Conferencing for Online Collaboration and Post-lesson Reflection and Discussion
The use of Learning Management Systems (LMS) is one platform where members of the lesson study team can collaborate in planning research lessons online without having to resort to face-to-face meetings. Learning management systems is a digital platform that facilitates the implementation of courses in conventional face-to-face, blended, and online learning environments (Wright, Lopez, Montgomerie, Reju and Schmoller, 2014). Impact studies on collaborative learning environments using LMS showed that students expressed interest in using the web-based tools to learn programming (Cavus, Uzunboylu, Ibrahim, 2006). Another study showed that university faculty members and college students demonstrated positive attitudes toward the use of LMS in the teaching-learning process (Alshorman and Bawaneh, 2018). It can therefore be used as an avenue for the Knowledgeable other (KO) to critique their work and offer insights regarding gaps or problematic areas in the lesson plan, the worksheets, and other teaching materials that are utilized in the lesson.
Some of the popular LMS like EDMODO have features that allow posting of materials, where the discussion threads are provided for sharing inputs of those who are reading the posts. Hence, learning management systems can facilitate interactions and feedback that are important in collaboration and critiquing. Since teachers also have Facebook accounts, setting up a Facebook page can also be used as LMS since any new inputs or developments taking place in the development of research lessons can show up as notifications in their smartphones and therefore facilitate engagement.
Educators have started to capitalize on popular social media platforms to facilitate the teaching-learning process (Williams and Whiting, 2016; Suwannatthachote and Tantrarungroi, 2012). Some studies show that there is a strong positive relationship between the use of Twitter, a popular social media platform, as an LMS) and student engagement while the use of a traditional LMS did not significantly enhanced their level of engagement (Williams and Whiting, 2016).  
Online collaboration using LMS may have some advantages. Inputs, opinions, comments and suggestions are clearly documented and can be revisited again. Since comments and suggestions can be written on threads for each post, members of the lesson study team can readily react to the statements.
In blended learning formats the online interaction provides a flexible learning environment for the teachers to interact as they need not react right away unlike in a face-to-face meeting where the LS team need to come up with solutions or suggestions to improve the lesson. Another advantage of online collaboration is the degree or extent of collaboration that can be documented and therefore motivate the timid or non-participative teachers to contribute to the development of the research lesson. The KO can provide a more adequate content as the platform can allow the KO to upload content in the post, which could be a video, a PowerPoint presentation or a photo, instead of just verbally explaining to them the suggestions or comments addressing certain areas of their research lesson. Since the lesson preparation is flexible, members of the team, as well as the KO, can have adequate time to analyze parts of the research lesson and make carefully thought out suggestions which cannot easily come out in a face-to-face meeting.
During post lesson discussions, group chats in the LMS can also serve as a venue to exchange ideas through group chats. Suwannathachote and Tantraringroj (2012) noted a significant but low correlation  between Facebook activities and group engagement among 205 pre-service teachers who were enrolled in an educational technology course. This implies that implementing lessons using Facebook as an LMS can be associated to an increased level of collaboration among students. 
There are certain advantages in using group chats.  Previous discussions can be recalled so there is no need for a tape recorder during post lesson discussions. The KO or the facilitator will be able to assess the extent of contribution of each member of the lesson and evaluate the degree of collaboration taking place in the development of the research lesson. In this way, the facilitator can call the attention of lesson study members and motivate them to share their ideas with their colleagues. Furthermore, since attachments are allowed in Facebook group chats, discussions and explanations can be best presented with pictures, videos, PDF files and other such attachments.     
                  Video conferencing is another way to have a virtual face to face where members of the lesson study team, together with their KO can discuss real time the issues and gaps that they need to address in the research lesson they are developing. Rosetti and Surnyt (1984) claimed that video conferencing can be more effective than the traditional face-to-face interaction of teachers and students. At present, various platforms can now be used to implement video conferencing. One of the latest platforms is ZOOM where real time discussions can be conducted to promote the exchange of ideas in the spirit of collegiality.
 Online lesson implementation of the research lesson
The online implementation of the research lesson is the challenging part in the process of lesson study. While so many instructional strategies have been developed by instructional designers and blended learning advocates to promote instruction using web-based tools, the difficulty lies in how members of the lesson study team can observe the teaching-learning process. Pupils’ responses are very vital in assessing the effectiveness of the research lesson. The on-the-spot observation of pupils’ responses in a lesson implementation might not be effectively done in an online environment as it depends on the compliance of the students participating in the lesson. Thus, members of the lesson study team may look for other pieces of evidence of students’ outputs during the implementation. This is when the pupils submit their work by sending their worksheets as attachments in the group chat or by email.
The lesson implementer might schedule the lesson implementation with his students and set deadlines for submission of their outputs, which serve as a formative assessment component of the research lesson. Group chats during lesson implementation can also be used to help students who cannot catch up and receive immediate feedback for certain discussions in order to approximate real time discussions that also take place during a face-to-face interaction. These group chats for the lesson implementation can also be used during the post lesson reflection and discussion.
The Future Prospects of Online Lesson Study
With unexpected turn of events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the academic community must be able to carry out contingency measures that can address the hindrances brought about by the pandemic. The academic community must develop the infrastructure to implement online professional development programs to continuously upgrade teachers’ professional practice without compromising on the need for physical distancing as a public health measure to contain the spread of the disease. Using an online lesson study process can be best initiated among pre-service teachers to prepare them in future disruptive events such as this pandemic.  
Challenges must not be ignored even during these times that the teaching-learning process has been affected significantly by the global pandemic.  It seems likely that teachers and students may have reservations on using online learning as a teaching strategy and as a means for professional development.  In a survey of 9,500 faculty members and 40,000 college students, 73% of faculty members and 70% of students prefer face-to-face over online learning, but half of them are amenable to a blended learning environment (Koenig, 2019). Thus, instructional designers must be able to make online learning environments more user-friendly and accessible to both faculty members and students in order to address restrictions brought about by the pandemic.      

Alshorman, B. A., & Bawaneh, A.K., (2018). Attitudes of faculty members and students towards the
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Cavus, N., Uzunboylu, H., Ibrahim, D. (2006). Combining collaborative learning with learning
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International Open and Distance Learning (IODL) Symposium (2006) Eski┼čehir, Turkey.

Koenig, R. (2019, December 11). Most students and faculty prefer face-to-face instruction,

Suwannatthachote, P. & Tantrarungroj, P. (2012). How facebook connects students’ group work
Collaboration: A relationship between personal facebook usage and group engagement.
Creative Education, 3, 15-19. doi: 10.4236/ce.2012.38b004

Williams, D., & Whiting, A. (2016). Exploring the relationship between student engagement, Twitter,
And a learning management system: A study of undergraduate marketing students.
International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 28(3), 302-313.

Wright, C.R., Lopes, V., Montgomerie, C., Reju S., & Schmoller, S. (2014, April 21). Selecting a learning
management system: Advice from an academic perspective. EduCauseReview. Retrieved



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