I have taken some online classes. Most recently, one on Lego Robotics. I definately figured out that I enjoy the human interaction of a real class, but when you want to learn from the best, sometimes online is the only way possible. I have found that classes that only use Blackboard are not as engaging as ones with interactive chat. I do enjoy the instant feedback of a chat room such as in the Intel Webinars. I feel like I can ask the instructor questions as if I were in the class with him/her. I love the conversation that goes on with other people around the country. This is a huge perk to online classes; getting to converse with people across the country and sharing ideas with them.
I think that there are so many pros and cons concerning this topic. Yes, when you are talking about going green and saving money, but there is so much to having human interaction. We all want to multi-task and get as many things done in a day, yet communication will always be an important skill.
I do think that on-line courses have a time and a place for any given situation.
I've taken several online course and even received my last degree in an online program. I really loved this style of learning for many reasons:
- Attending at my own peak times (evenings, weekends, early mornings)
- Attending from anywhere (as long as you can reach the www, you can attend class)
- Working with others (the communication between instructor and students or between students can be more meaningful because of the "value" of online contact)
- Working with teams (a popular method in online learning environments is -purposeful- grouping on student projects, especially with students from around the world)
- Going Green (working in an online learning environment reduces travel expenses)
- Paperless (although many online environments require printing of syllabuses and assignments, students do have the option to save paper by saving and reading files electronically)
In addition to online gradute programs, educators in my area are also seeking out online pd and students have online options for HS courses.
There are differences in the ways that you obtain information and share with others. In an online environment, what you used to hear in a classroom or say must be delivered electronically.
There are similarities, too, the interactions of a classroom community exist whether you are in a room of people or in an online forum of people.
An early misconception of online learning was that it was more like an "independent study" course, but I have found that the interactions with instructor and students, discussions, teamwork, and challenging assignments and material are more similiar to a real face-to-face class setting than the reputation of a traditional "independent study" course.
- Attending at my own peak times (evenings, weekends, early mornings)
I have participated in quite a few online courses. I have facilitated many as well, and I have trained others to become online facilitators. That said, I have had a variety of experiences.
On the positive side, both as a learner and as a facilitator:
- It's learning available anytime, anywhere
- I have more time to read and digest, reflect on the posts of others
- I can include many references as links when I state my responses and opinions
- "Shy" learners have their opinions heard
On the negative side:
- It's a lot of work! (OK, this really isn't a negative...)
- Each learner must do their own work (OK, this is not a negative, either.)
What makes the real difference, in my opinion, is the level of training and commitment to the process the facilitator possesses and the level of commitment to true learning the learner(s) have. A well-facilitated course shows involvement by the facilitator, but not just cursory. Provocative questions which blend responses of learners are posted and discussion is furthered. Minimal posting is expected and encouraged, but deeper discussion is valued as well.
One needs enough learners to garner a variety of points of view, but too few or too many make the learning more difficult.
If learners are only participating at the very minimum level and deeper responses are not required through well-crafted discussion prompts, online learning can be ineffective and just as irrelevant as poorly-crafted learning experiences in a Face-to-Face situation.
"Sit and Get" learning can happen (not really) just as poorly online as F2F. All of the benefits and pitfalls of F2F can happen in online learning. Effective instruction can happen in either environment as long as the participants are committed to real learning.
I think about online learning this way: it's at my fingertips. My son Alan and I were watching a movie that took place in South Africa. One of the characters had a pet and Alan wondered what kind of animal it was. We got out the iPad and identified it in less than 10 minutes. Some people might consider this "cheating" or the "easy way out." I consider it efficient. In fact, moments like this occur daily. Alan has learned many magic tricks and skateboarding moves through youtube videos.
On the more formal level, I have taken several online courses through Intel and AISD. I love the time flexibility, the expanded network of collaborators, and, for the most part, the content. There are some tedious and redundant elements to online training, but the same can be said for face-to-face classes.
On another note, I believe that more and more online coursed will be offered for higher education. This can make college more affordable and doable for many students, including those who wish to return to school.
I still have mixed feelings about online learning. Unfortunately, I have never had the experience of taking an online class. I do like the idea of having a flexible schedule and to be able to take the class anywhere I have the technology to do so. My one concern is the face to face relationships and personal appeal of having someone right there in the room with you. I hate to give up that personal contact.
I very much agree Marilyn. I have never taken an online course, and that has been my choice. There have been plenty of times when I could have, but I really enjoy being in the classroom with people and hands on learning. Also knowing myself, I would be very reluctant to make myself get on the computer and actually do the lessons.
What I've discovered with Online courses, is as a facilitator, it's hard to get the conversation/feedback to go deeper. Like most have already said, with online, you don't get the "voice inflection" or "body language" like you do with f2f. However, on the plus side, as a facilitator, I'm seeing that online courses (Intel courses) fill up faster than the f2f ones. In addition, I also like the "networking" that comes from online courses.
Cindimay, I agree with you one this. One of the areas we covered in the ETLO facilitators course was getting teachers to "dig deeper" as they answered questions. Using this link for Socratic Questioning was quite good. We also were given this link for Socratic Questioning Technique.
Hope these links are helpful.
I was a part of several online courses when I was working on my master's degree. Initially I found it to be a lot more work, and I struggled with time-management. After a couple online classes I found my groove, and I actually came to prefer online classes.
I teach 8th graders, and I'm not sure a good portion of my students are motivated enough to A) teach themselves some of the content in order to understand what is needed to complete assignments, etc.; B) get the work done on time or produce high quality work; C) all the above.
I have been involved in online classes when I completed my masters degree. I found there to definetly be pros and cons to online classes. I really liked the flexibility that comes along with online classes and the independence of online classes. However, with that being said if you are not a self-motivated person then I think you would not find success in online classes. I would think that most of my 8th graders would not have the drive and self-motivation to complete an online course.
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