Physics professor Dr. Ajith Rajapaksha has been a long-time CN user. He started using CN in 2015 while he was an assistant professor at Purdue University. Back then, he was using Facebook to engage his students in student-centered online discussions. Facebook did not respond to his request to make its features more suitable for learners. Coincidently, he was introduced to CN and found that it provided features that were missing on Facebook. He then began teaching in CN in both the US and Sri Lanka and has been giving continuous feedback to the CN R&D team.
Ajith is one of the most active energetic and inspiring teaching scholars we have worked with. He has taught a wide range of courses online from psychics, math, to non-science courses. When he teaches each course, he puts tremendous effort into aligning his teaching philosophy with teaching strategies, designing engaging learning activities, and implementing innovative new technologies to maximize student learning. Even when he teaches courses he has taught before, he never stops making improvements and trying out new things. Looking at his courses, we see the pursuit of perfection and commitment to student growth.
One of Ajith’s courses on CN
Ajith believes in active learning, which emphasizes higher order thinking, problem solving, learning by doing, and interactions with others in the learning process. He grounds his design of active learning activities and materials in learning sciences, such as Long Term Potentiation (LTP) theory, Distributed Practice Effect, and Richard Meyer’s Principles of Multimedia Learning. He regularly asked students to present real-world applications of physics concepts using a single PowerPoint slide, then embed the slide in a post in CN to share with their class. Students then look at each other’s posts and have extended discussions. Through this activity, students have to search, analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and communicate. This gives a perfect example of how Ajith leverages unique technologies to support active learning.
Ajith also values transdisciplinary skills – skills that are not specific to a particular subject or field. He has designed a variety of group projects to help students develop transdisciplinary skills. For instance, in a Thermodynamics course, students worked in groups to build a heat engine and documented their working process through Youtube videos. In his Philosophy of Science course, groups of students collaborated and eventually published a digital class journal . In the non-science course, Career Development, students delivered webinars on the books they read. Through these engaging group projects, students flourished through developing transdisciplinary skills such as leadership, project management, team building, communication, and digital literacy.
When it comes to CN features, Ajith considers the Task tool, posts, and Anar Seeds most valuable. He also recommended CN ePortfolio for students to develop academic social networks and document their personal growth. Ajith has created his own teaching ePortfolio that can be found here: thecn.com/AR229
This blog is based on a webinar delivered by Dr. Ajith Rajapaksha on Aug 3, 2022 through the IUPUI Webinar Series on eLearning Innovation and Best Practices .