Computer and pencils on a desk
Intentional learning

Intentional learning:

  • is focused towards achieving specific learning outcomes
  • involves reflecting on progress, goals, and ways to change behaviour to meet goals
  • is the opposite of undirected / random activity / 'gaming the system'

Optional additional reading: 6 Secrets to intentional learning.

Examples of intentionality in online learning:

  • learners answer meaningful questions, designed to meet specific learning outcomes, in an electronic quiz, e.g. using Quizlet. To give the answers they have to read a section of their textbook. They will only be able to answer the questions if they have understood what they have read.
  • learners systematically manipulate variables in a PhET simulation, changing one variable at a time. They answer questions which have been carefully designed to guide them to collect data systematically in response to a focus question, to observe patterns in this data and to formulate these in a conclusion which is consistent with the data and the focus question.
  • learners pause a You-tube movie at certain places to answer questions, in a worksheet or in an online quiz, about what the movie has explained so far, or to make predictions about what will come next in the movie. These questions direct the learner to think about the concepts and 'big ideas' which are essential for understanding the topic.
  • learners choose from given options / suggest their own option, and justify their choice, on a Padlet 'cork-board', e.g. for what they predict will be observed for a given experiment / what they think will happen next in their English / Sesotho / Afrikaans set-book. The options that are provided on this Padlet 'cork-board' correspond to commonly held misconceptions for this topic / are written in such a way as to promote thought and discussion about the characters and themes of the book.

Examples of random (non-intentional) activity in online learning:

  • learners answer an electronic quiz, e.g. using Quizlet. Either: (a) the questions are 'silly', e.g. a learner can answer them by superficially matching a word from the textbook to the question and copying the surrounding words without understanding the meaning, or (b) the questions are far too difficult for these learners, so they resort to guessing, pressing any button until they get the answer right, without thinking about the answers.
  • learners play with a PhET simulation, changing variables randomly. If they answer questions, these do not direct systematic investigation.
  • learners jump between You-tube movies, laughing at the comments sections or effects on the movie, or play the Movie in the background while they do / think about something else. If they pause the movie at certain places to answer questions, in a worksheet or in an online quiz, these are superficial questions which they answer superficially just to say they have done their work.
  • learners vote randomly for options on a Padlet 'cork-board' without engaging with the options deeply, perhaps because the options are superficial, perhaps because they are not required to justify their options, perhaps because they don't understand what is presented.   |   University of the Free State South Campus   |   +27 51 451 1024 / +27 78 508 0848


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Open Distance and E-learning Programmes
Deborah Pietersen
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Short Learning Programmes
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Kovsie Phahamisa Academy

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