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Designing authentic activities in web-based courses


INFLUENCED by constructivist educational theory and advances in technology, there is increasing interest in authentic activities as a basis for learning in both face-to-face and Web-based courses. Whereas traditionally, real-world activities have primarily served as vehicles for practice of skills or processes that are taught using traditional instructional methods, a more radical approach is to build a whole course of study around authentic activities and tasks. The authors of this paper argue that the value of authentic activity is not constrained to learning in real-life locations and practice, but that there are critical characteristics of authentic activities that can be incorporated into the design of Web-based courses to enhance learning online. We include a description of the theory, research, and development initiatives that provide the foundations for this approach. Finally, we present guidelines and examples for the design of complex authentic activities for online learning, together with the implications of this approach for teachers, students, and designers.

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Correspondence to Jan Herrington.

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Herrington, J., Reeves, T.C., Oliver, R. et al. Designing authentic activities in web-based courses. J. Comput. High. Educ. 16, 3–29 (2004).

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  • authentic activities
  • characteristics of authentic activities
  • Web-based learning environments
  • online courses