I love the idea of building in ways for students to make decisions about what they learn and how they learn it. My experience is that being able to choose the path of their learning results in increased engagement.
For example, instead of assigning students to read and summarize a specific article in Spanish, I give them a list of online newspapers in Spanish and ask them to pick an article within a certain theme (e.g. science & technology). Because they have the opportunity to choose an article they are interested in, their level of engagement goes up. This also takes them out of academia and into the real world. They become exposed to newspapers in other countries and reading material that is intended for native-speaker audiences. My hope is that this will create a pathway for them to continue exploring Spanish language news sites beyond the scope of the course.
In a recent article I read on common pitfalls in online education I was inspired to take student choice to the next level. The article encourages building online courses in a way that allows students to teach each other. Why not not only let students choose their learning resources but use them to teach each other? I have had students share their article summaries on a discussion board and respond to each other. More could be done! I love the idea of students working in smaller discussion groups to not only share their findings but also to teach each other what they learned. Finally, they could then work together in these groups to apply their findings toward some larger project. Can’t wait to try this!