Distant physical education service: individual progress trajectories

PhD, Associate Professor V.V. Bakaev1
PhD S.V. Kalmykova1
Dr. Hab., Professor J. F.-M. Gaillard2
PhD, Associate Professor V.S. Vasilyeva1
1Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, St. Petersburg
2University of Lorraine, Nancy, France

Corresponding author: piskun@imop.ru

Abstract

Objective of the study was to summarize modern practical experiences of academic online Physical Education Theory and make practical recommendations on how the trainer-trainee communication may be improved in the digital education environments.

Methods and structure of the study. Our research team has developed and piloted an online Physical Education Theory course [2] with an institutional model of the digital Physical Education Theory, and analyzed practical benefits of the course. The online physical education course offers a harmonized interpretation of the physical education theory accessible for every trainee notwithstanding some ambiguity of the traditional terms and meanings; is designed on clear logics and rules for delivering the key physical education concepts; and governed by a unified physical education concept. The online physical education course gives a due priority to the physical education service distribution in the faculty so as to timely customize and individualize the physical education formats.

Results and Conclusion. Some students of the online Physical Education Theory course demonstrate poor academic progress and backlogs with low examination grades to effectively stall the online education service. We have addressed this problem by special recommendations for the online education course developers with an emphasis on the interest and progress facilitating motivations. We prioritized the following recommendations: update the interim test sets at least once a year; offer lively interactive learning elements in the course including crosswords, special projects, etc.; encourage the trainees for supplementary courses to facilitate their progress in the online Physical Education Theory.

Conclusion. Having analyzed the practical experience and benefits of the online Physical Education Theory course, we offered practical recommendations for the course trainers and trainees on how the academic progress may be facilitated to avoid or reduce the academic backlogs.

Keywords: online course, physical education theory, progress trajectory, students, digital education.

Background. Many specific issues of the modern education service design, goal-setting and management are coming to the forefront nowadays when many higher educational institutions have to make partial or full transitions to the online education service formats [1-3, 5]. For the last decade the modern digital education with special online education technologies has made great progress and was recognized an integral part of many national education systems, with a special contribution from the mass open online courses for the last few years with the audience growth trend indicative of the growing popularity of these formats [6, 9].

As things now stand, Saint Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPPU) offers more than a hundred mass open online courses accessible from external and internal education platforms. The mass open online course models integrated into the regular education curricula and their scopes basically depend on the discipline, with some models facing problems and even failures although they only stimulate them for new solutions [2, 4, 6, 7, 10]. These trends and issues are increasingly relevant for the academic physical education service with its traditional independent Elective Physical Education Practices and Physical Education Theory modules.

Objective of the study was to summarize modern practical experiences of academic online Physical Education Theory and make practical recommendations on how the trainer-trainee communication may be improved in the digital education environments.

Methods and structure of the study. Our research team has developed and piloted an online Physical Education Theory course [2] with an institutional model of the digital Physical Education Theory, and analyzed practical benefits of the course. The online physical education course offers a harmonized interpretation of the physical education theory accessible for every trainee despite some ambiguity of the traditional terms and meanings; is designed on clear logics and rules for delivering the key physical education concepts; and governed by a unified physical education concept. The online physical education course gives a due priority to the physical education service distribution in the faculty so as to timely customize and individualize the physical education formats [2].

Results and discussion. The online Physical Education Theory course was first piloted in the early 2017 on a 500+ sample of the first-year students. The learning format and physical education service design (with independent learning, one introductory lecture and deadlines for learning and final tests) was found unusual and challenging by the students. The learning process faced certain design and management difficulties and resulted in many academic backlogs and repeated exams. We run a questionnaire survey to find at least 20% of the students having problems in adaptation to the course due to the following key reasons: failures to subscribe for the course on time; missed deadlines for the interim progress tests; inattention and forgetfulness due to overloads from some other academic disciplines.

The above problems were resolved by timely management policies and practices, disciplining requirements from the principles and, importantly, timely help from the faculty always prepared to give explanations on the course specifics and answer the trainees’ questions. These efforts facilitated the academic backlogs being drastically cut down in the following semesters. The proved benefits of the online Physical Education Theory course motivated the team for further ambitious initiatives to transform the physical education models and methods with a growing contribution of self-reliant learning formats.

Despite the fact that the key principles of independent learning design and management (including programmed learning models) were formulated long ago [10], the modern distant online learning systems still need some rethinking and transformation of the principles. The prime reason for that is that the online education service heavily limits direct trainer-trainee communication and offers only indirect contracts in digital environments with the relevant necessary adjustments to the traditional interaction styles.

In methodological terms, the self-reliant learning process in the programmed learning service is driven by the Operant Conditioning Theory by Skinner [8] based on the general behavioristic concept. Skinner offered the following programmed learning principles: (1) Give information in small pieces; (2) Test progress in digesting every piece of information by special tasks; (3) Offer right answers for self-checks; and (4) Give the progress-sensitive individual instructions.

The above items 1-3 obviously refer to the duly systematized online education materials, whilst item 4 needs to be revised since the online educational service limits direct trainer-trainee communication. Our online Physical Education Theory course offers the following trainer-trainee communication options:

1. Direct trainer-trainee communication on the online forums within the course. Such communication should be free of time gaps – that means that every question should be responded within one day at most. This is the reason why the SPPU nominates only specialized teachers to the mass open online courses assisted by the online platform operators and technical staff to keep the teacher timely informed on the incoming questions.

2. The online education service should offer customized options for the fast progressing trainees (in case of the obligatory online education there are quite a few of them) who consider the learning material and pace too easy (see Figures 1, 2).

Figure 1. Daily activity profiles of the online Physical Education Theory course students: numbers on the vertical axis and hours on the horizontal axis

Figure 2. Semester and exam-time activity profiles of the online Physical Education Theory course students

Some students of the online Physical Education Theory course demonstrate poor academic progress and backlogs with low examination grades to effectively stall the online education service. We have addressed this problem by special recommendations for the online education course developers with an emphasis on the interest and progress facilitating motivations. We prioritized the following recommendations: update the interim test sets at least once a year; offer lively interactive learning elements in the course including crosswords, special projects, etc.; encourage the trainees for supplementary courses to facilitate their progress in the online Physical Education Theory.

Conclusion. Having analyzed the practical experience and benefits of the online Physical Education Theory course, we offered practical recommendations for the course trainers and trainees on how the academic progress may be facilitated to avoid or reduce the academic backlogs.

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