Questions for consideration:
- I’d like you to think about what you have learned in this course. Really think about what it means to have learned something.
- What did you learn? How do you know you learned it?
- Can you provide examples of things that you have learned? – be specific, give details.
I have been reflecting on all of the things that I have learned throughout the semester and I have condensed my learning into four major “wow” learning points. These are the things that I know I have learned as they illustrate the change in my thinking from May to August. I will summarize what I am taking away from each of these points below:
Technology isn’t student-centered
I am one of those people who often fell into the trap of thinking that technology made teaching more student-centered. Since students are familiar with technology, PowerPoint will make them learn better. Right? Wrong! The videos we watched in the last module as well as information from the Breese presentations illuminated this fact for me. Initially I felt as though my course learning activities seemed inadequate after watching the Breeze presentation on what works in online education. Somehow worksheets just did not feel right.
So, with worksheets out, I decided that Skype conversations would be fantastic because it used Skype, and hey that’s technology! But, I had no idea what I wanted from these Skype conversations. What was I going to assess? What did I want my students demonstrate? I discovered that just inserting technology does not suddenly make things better. My Skype idea, without any strong development proved to be just as lackluster as the worksheets I had originally considered using. Thus, I take away from this course that technology is a tool, but it is not a problem-solver. The use of technology requires the same, if not more amounts of work in preparing since the use of technology requires that the instructor know why they are using the technology and how the technology is to advance the lesson or the assessment of learning.
Presence is more than just answering emails
I remember looking at the objectives of the module and reading the word presence. At the time I remembered all of my online instructors who never answered discussion posts or emails and seemed disconnected from the course. While they might not have earned tremendous points for quick response, their courses all had excellent designs and layouts. I knew what I needed to do and when I needed to do it. While they failed to offer feedback quickly, they had, in fact developed a presence in the classroom by creating continuity and clarity in defining assignments, objectives, due dates and many other elements of being present in the classroom.
I leave this course knowing that presence is more than just responding to students. Being truly present requires that the students feel your presence as they are completing assignments and learning – knowing what is expected of them and what they expect of the instructor.
Community is more than just posting in discussion forums
In my other online courses class community has been developed by writing a post introducing myself to the class and responding to two of my classmates. After that I was placed in groups and never spoke to one-third to two-thirds of the class. Thus there were class communities, but no such thing as class community.
This course has illustrated to me the need to really build community in an online course and to do more than just expect students to talk with each other and enjoy each other’s presence in the digital realm. Students need to feel connected to each other as well as to their class. By engaging students and allowing students to grow there is a connection with the student and the course that allows the student to feel more open to a classroom community. For example, if a student knows what to do and how to do it (presence) he/she might feel more comfortable branching out in discussions and discussing points with a majority of students instead of just discussing with the same people at the same time. But community depends heavily on presence and the two really work in tandem.
Alex made this point in the Breese presentation in the second module and it changed a lot of my thinking both about online learning as well as f2f learning. In my f2f teaching I often assume that my students will understand something or already will know how to do something. And then something happens. My students turn in poor work and I assume I just have low-quality students. Yet, the blame lies solely with me for just assuming that my students know how to do something.
Students need to know how to do what they are being asked to complete, whether that be writing an essay, creating a course profile, or participating in discussion. If one assumes that students can just do that, then the results will turn out poorly which wastes everyone’s time. Instead, instructors, both f2f and online, need to assume that their students do not know how to do something. Taking the time to explain something may seem tedious but it will provide for greater clarification, greater learning, and more meaningful assessments. Taking the time to just let students know what to do and how to do it has the potential of increasing the enjoyment of learning for all involved!