53 Interesting Ways to Support Online Learning – Book Review

Our review of the book – 53 Interesting Ways to Support Online Learning by Rhona Sharpe (2016).
The Professional and Higher Partnership Imprint by Frontinus.

Our view:

a really good book to be dipped in and out of when looking for ideas to make online learning in its many formats engaging and effective.

53 Ways to Support Online Learning by Rhona Sharpe


Along with Michael Allen’s and more recently Helen Routledge’s book on gaming, another well-used book on our shelves is Helen Beethan and Rhona Sharpe’s work Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age, so we were pleased to be able to review Rhona Sharpe’s latest work: 53 Interesting Ways to Support Online Learning.

I would describe this as a handbook for teachers, tutors and trainers who are looking for proven and practical ideas that make online learning work in education and in the workplace.


Who should read this book?

Well, I wish I had done several years ago!

It is 16 years since I first delivered online learning in Webct and had to consider how to interact with learners all over Europe delivering a semester in Information Technology Management as part of a masters’ course for the University of Sheffield, and I wish I had been able to use some of the methods suggested in this book back then.

Who else should read this book? It is aimed at the education sector without doubt. Many of the ideas put forward are suitable for tutors in HE and FE delivering learning online within what we term as VLE’s (Virtual Learning Environments or online classrooms.

However, I would add without hesitation that a considerable number of the ideas could and should be used by tutors and trainers delivering blended learning courses in the corporate world and for organisations who are exploring social learning strategies in their organisation. To those individuals who are charged with navigating the challenge of delivering a social learning eco-system, or what the late great Jay Cross termed as Learnscapes, this book will provide some rich ideas that can be used to stimulate engagement in some interesting and innovative ways.

As the title says, there are 53 ideas and not all will be suitable for all, so this is a great book to dip into and see if there are ideas that address your particular situation. Already, (in about a month) I have shamelessly used several ideas with clients and as part of our work here at Learning Light.

Each idea often comes with resources, sometimes links to tools, links to other books and worthwhile notes of caution. This is not an academic treatise but a practical guide with some great ideas.


Key Learning Ideas

Several key themes run through the book, the recognition of the modern digital learner (their ease of distraction quotient and the importance social media and the need of the learner to respond instantly to any message or alert), the importance of behaviours and the importance of rewards and some very succinct advice on gamification #37.

I found #4, Model the behaviour you expect very interesting and a great jumping off point that is practical and useful for learners in new learning environments in education or the workplace.

Idea #6 was equally interesting in Boundary management exercises and the recognition of the nature of the modern learner…distraction and attention span being two key points, I am about to read Rosen’s book Rewired to explore this further.

Ideas for collaboration and teamwork are just great and again spill over from learning to training and the modern organisation’s ways of collaboration including Twitter chats #16, micro-blogging #17, and collaborative writing tools #18.

I paid particular attention to idea #25, collaboration around online annotations. As knowledge workers (in the world of Pete Drucker), many of us spend our days owing feedback, making comments and exchanging information in digital formats (Word, Excel, PowerPoints and a growing plethora of collaborative environments). This section is so worthwhile in exploring how this particular in demand skill of the modern workplace can be addressed.

#19 discusses how to assess online discussions with a simple marking rubric – really neat indeed.

A learner readiness quiz #22 is a nice idea indeed. Some years ago, Learning Light built a module entitled “learning to e-learn” for an offender learning programme we worked on. A quiz is really useful.
In summary, a really good book to be dipped in and out of when looking for ideas to make online learning in its many formats engaging and effective.

Click here to buy the book from Amazon.