There seems to be an overwhelming amount to learn in online teaching

It is easy to read the articles that identify the key stumbling blocks to avoid in online teaching, but it is much more difficult to appreciate the how to meet the challenge of course design.

It is helpful to view the exemplar teaching modules to get an indication of how to do things well. I have primarily learned from the example of the course itself. I am guilty of a multitude of assumptions about my online learners. I am most guilty of thinking – they read everything I put in the course. Another key assumption has been that I have to try to replicate what is done in the  F2F classrooom.  It has been most helpful to read the dialogue through this module, listen to the video/powerpoint and to read the articles. I see that I need to shed some of my preconceived ideas and basically start from scratch.

By  using various technologies, we can meet the needs of our students, with tools that fit the online asynchronous format. I see now, it is not about trying to make the online environment appear to be a replication of the face to face environment; but instead it is ideal to make the online environment as effective as possible to meet the learning objectives, and the learners needs.

In this course – the repetition of the material, and the varied presentation tools have served as  good examples to me of how to present information. I had fallen into the trap of presenting information once. Before this module, I had actually worried about redundancy. I mistakenly thought I did not want to repeat information, for fear students would not continue reading if the information was repeated.

Prior to this course I had  heard other instructors talk of there being no need to repeat what was included in the assigned readings. Now I feel differently about that. I can see the value of some overlap. It seems consistent with the instructional theory of  cognitive flexibility. The idea of tying new information together in different ways, to enhance deeper learning.

My primary wish is that I had taken this course prior to my mind being filled with all of the pitfalls, and assumptions that are to be avoided.

I am not panicking yet, but while learning – I am trying to figure out my plans of correction to address the false assumptions that lead to the course design I inherited. I am glad for the chance to create from scratch a new course – I can use as an example of form and design.

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How is feedback received by online learners?

Effective feedback is a valuable tool in instruction, regardless of the delivery method of that learning. Furnborough and Truman (2009) explore the impact of quality feedback from instructors on the motivation level of students. They point out that feedback is particularly effective with self-regulated learners and has a positive correlation with improved performance. As they describe it, self-regulated learners are those who are cognitively aware of the learning process, intentional in their focus, and capable of gauging their own learning success. One assumption that is hard to clarify is – does the level of success achieved by online learners occur because they are self-regluated learners to begin with, or does the online learning experience promote the development of self-regulated learners.

When I consider another assumption I have about online learning, I assume students are reading everything posted in the modules. This includes the feedback I so diligently write on their assignments. What I question is, what is their true response to the feedback. There are the few exceptions, who send a response of appreciation for the feedback, but the majority of the learners do not. It is difficult to know if the feedback adds to their learning. In a study of language learners, Furnborough and Truman (2009) discovered three basic reactions of students to feedback. Nearly half of the students really appreciated the feedback and saw it as opportunities to improve their learning. They found about 14 of the 43 students merely viewed the feedback as a grading mechanism and look at it in terms of checking their standing in the course. The remaining 11 seemed to not consider the value of feedback at all. These findings lead me to explore ways to look at how my student may perceive the value and usefulness of feedback. I am challenged to determine ways to impart the intent of feedback to enhance the understanding of my students.

Furnborough, C. & Truman, M. (2009) Adult beginner distance language learner perceptions and use of assignment feedback. Distance Education, Vol. 30 (3), 399–418.

DOI: 10.1080/01587910903236544

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Reflection is a very good place to start

I like the idea of starting the course with a “reflection” module. I often think of reflection as a terminal experience, looking back on something and reflecting of the qualities, potential uses, areas of improvement. I like starting with it as a means so dreaming, pondering the possibilities, getting established in a frame of reference before continuing.
Fook and +Askeland (2007) explore the benefits of critical reflections. They point out that reflection is an intentional practice of exploring underlying assumptions in thought processes, for the purpose of achieving growth.  They explain that this practice is useful for an individual to be able to understand their own thinking, and gain better insight into what drives their behaviors.

So as I begin the journey into ETAP 640, I will reflect on what I have learned so far. It was interesting throughout the Did You Know Video, that as the various technologies were identified, there was also the frequent statement that 8 out of 10 people don’t know what something is, do you (I am in that group)? It is rather daunting to think that if only 2 out of 10 people know what a blog is, and there are millions of blogs being written per day, how are the other 8 out of 10 people experiencing life? While I understand the need to participate in the global experience – I honestly don’t see how all of this technology has necessarily improved life for the poor, the hungry, and the uneducated. I certainly get the idea of the explosion of electronic devices and social media inventions. I also understand that, as a group of educators, we are way behind in even attempting to utilize some of the technologies available for the benefit of our students.

I wondered where Eric Qualman got his research for the social media video and was pleased to see his resources listed on the website (http://www.socialnomics.com). I checked out a few of them just for the sake of not feeling like I am just believing anything he says. It was interesting to me that the the video on social media mentioned that emails are passe, but I still have a large number of students who are still learning how to use email. Cecil made the point in his post that teaching students with limited knowledge of technology is challenging- especially for those who are “. . .all struggling under a heavy load already.” (Cecil Alan Elmore, Thursday, May 26th 2011, 0725 am Post). There must be a way to make this easier for all parties involved.

It is interesting to me that the internet yields such power over people and drives us to feel as though we will be left behind without utilizing it our every waking moment. I can appreciate how fast everything is changing, but at the same time I am personally unsure of the best approaches to use in getting caught up. As an employee in a state school, I don’t see recommendations being made for faculty to engage in new technologies; in fact, a couple of years ago we were asked to remove media content from our online courses, because it was bogging down the system! I do believe that has been fixed by now; but what a mixed message – use technology – but not too much.

Ian’s post about faculty ignoring technology forced me to reflect on my own biases. (Ian August, Thursday, May 26th, 2011, 0940 am post)) I see a blend of responses where I work, most of  which are accepting. Some of the recent requests for improving technology use in our department have been triggered by those of us who are doctoral students being exposed to a large variety of tools. It has taken nearly 2 years for the administration on our campus to support the request of one of our faculty members to provide infrastructure and equipment to use Elluminate. Elluminate (http://www.elluminate.com) is a web based tool that provides opportunities for distance learners to stay in their location and participate in synchronous, real time lectures, seminars, or presentations with other members in a different location. It also the possibility of recording the interactions so students may review the content asynchronously. Our department faculty just had our first instructional session 2 weeks ago.

As I reflect on these issues or challenges it keeps coming back in my mind to time. Taking time and making time to learn what you really need to know to be effective as possible to promote growth in the learner. My quiz results reflect I still have some gaps. So already this first week has caused me to move from “OMG! She wants us to join all these things!” to a mindset of – “Okay – I can do this, it may take me longer than the average bear, but I am trusting I will be the better learner, and educator, for having tried in the first place. My hope is that it will not take me the entire course to be able to tweet and blog. So I will follow Cecil’s comment about training – more than what is expected, and practice, practice, practice.

Fook, J. & Askeland, G. A. (2007). Challenges of critical reflection: ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’. Social Work Education, 26 (5), pp. 520-533. Retrieved from EBSCO Host. DOI: 10.1080/02615470601118662

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