20 Replies Latest reply on Jan 17, 2011 4:05 PM by holmesg

    Online or not to online, that is the question.

      Back in March while attending the MEC Conference in Tempe, AZ, I had a conversation with a very knowledgeable person about online training.  Their opinion was that the Essentials training could be totally done online, with no, or very little face to face.  I happen to disagree with that for several reasons.  First of all, most teachers are not comfortable with an online environment.  Most teachers, because of other distractions, are not able to carve out a bit of time every night to work on the course, and sometimes, the online site is difficult for some people to navigate.

       

      I would be curious to hear what you think.  What do you like about online classes?  What don't you like about them?  Do you think it's possible to teach most online classes with no face to face at all?  What does that do to the attrition rate of a class?  Does anyone have any statistics on class completion (face to face) vs. an online class?

       

      Neil

        • Re: Online or not to online, that is the question.
          holmesg

          I think the online course is a wonderful option for the technology savy teacher who is dedicated, focused and is a self starter. This allows the participant to work at his/her pace and can complete the assignments according to instructions so that discussions are rich and the instructor can facilitate the course effectively.  For teachers weak in technology this can be a challenge; especially if some situation occurs that caused them to get behind.  This causes frustration and often the participant drops out.

           

          Face to face interaction is a better fit for the teachers who are new to virtual learning and web tools.  Being able to see their frustrations as they occur and providing immediate assistance helps to keep participants on task and working towards completing the course and graduating with the pretigious "INTEL" certificate.

            • Re: Online or not to online, that is the question.
              tdiener

              I taught an online course a couple years ago that was originally scheduled to be a traditional face-to-face class. The participants were not aware of the change until the first (and only face-to-face) class. SURPRISE! You can imagine the reaction. There were some techno phobes in the class. Amazingly everything went well and amazingly everyone did well. (100% said they would now take another online course.) This course illustrated for me that there is no ideal online learner, and that if you have to get across to the other side it doesn't matter if the water is cold. Maybe I just got lucky with this group, but it remains one of my favorite classes. I was so proud or their accomplishments.

            • Re: Online or not to online, that is the question.
              Bonnie Feather

              Well, I used to think I could lead a group through only online, and I have done that in the past with other material.  However, I have tried several times with Essentials, and I just don't enjoy it, and I don't think teachers get as much out of the online version as they do the F2F version.  I've been leading F2F sessions, and doing much of the work online together, so they would be certified to do online courses.

               

              In fact, in another discussion I noted that I even like to have an extra 8-hour day to give teachers enough time to learn about web 2.0 tools which can be useful in addition to the wikis and blogs!

               

              ~Bonnie

                • Re: Online or not to online, that is the question.

                  Bonnie, I absolutely agree with you.  I have taught the Essentials both ways, I, and the teachers and I both really seem to like it better.  I also like the idea of having more time to work with the Web 2.0 tools.  Here in Yavapai County, I have started a Technology Academy and we spent four hours on Communication and Collaboration alone.  The teachers really NEED the time to process all of the new materials we are giving them. 

                   

                  Neil

                  • Re: Online or not to online, that is the question.
                    holmesg

                    Bonnie, the feedback that I got from teachers when I attempted to teach the online essentials course was that it was overwhelming . . . just too much information.  They felt that taking the face to face class was helpful in explaining concepts and forced teachers to collaborate and discuss concepts in a timely manner.

                  • Re: Online or not to online, that is the question.
                    vkajones

                    Neil to answer your original question..Do you think it's possible to teach most online classes with no face to face at all... the answer would be yes. I have been facilitating online courses for over 10 years with no face to face interaction.  Are they successful? Yes?  Does it take a lot of effort on both the facilitator and the participant part? Yes. Just like any face to face course, you must set clear expectations and assessment criteria must be set and reinforced at the beginning of the online course.  Even though the online courses are asynchronous, you must be able to communicate with participants on a regular basis. Clear expectations of when particpants need to post, detailed deadline and criteria also must be established. I think once those items are established, there will be a better chance at having a successful online learning environment.

                     

                    Do I think hybrid online courses work best? Yes. In my district when I do the Essentials Online, it  is done in a hybrid fashion. We meet to establish those clear expectations and guidlelines. We make  sure  everyone understands that "Online" doesn't mean less work.  Also in a face to face hybrid course, we  walk participants through  the learning process of an online learning environment.


                    Communication is a very important component to online learning also. Being able to communicate with with paticipants and have them communicate back with you is very essentials to the success of the course.

                     

                    Vanessa

                      • Re: Online or not to online, that is the question. Leadership is the key
                        danrmorris

                        We are doing a "blended-learning" approach to the Elements PBA courses here in Colorado based on the Moodle platform developed by Tom in NY.

                         

                        For me in this course the one face-to-face day has proven to be essential because of the experience(or lack of it) for many o the participants.

                         

                        Less that half had any experience with an online class and needed an introduction to how to navigate and use the Moodle environment much less just understand what project-based lerning could look like in their classroom.  I think that we could have designed some introductory activities online but for many the learning curve would have been too steep.

                         

                        I fear that we option over estimate the "readiness" of may teachers to engage in an online class. I am still concerned that some districts sent teachers to the face-to-face with with laptops without the permissions to access online networks outside their district networks and when this was pointed out saw no need for teachers to be online outside their school district.  There is still a significant "gap of leadership" in many districts who still only defer to IT directors who have no understanding, or are rewarded to support teacher and student learning.

                         

                        I get to "discuss" some of these issues with supts on Friday and what their priorities really are.

                        • Re: Online or not to online, that is the question.

                          I say yes and no to online teaching/learning.  I think online learning works very well for some but is a new and scary concept for others.  You must be disciplined, organized and a self motivator/self starter to be able to meet clear expectations that are set at the start.  I remember when I was in graduate school, i hated my online classes or chats that had to take place in the evening because my professor had a husband who was very ill and eventually dies from his illness.  There were assignments posted and chats that had to take place that were far more overwhelming then informative.  On line busy work is what it should have been called.  And the online learning/chats had to take always take place well into the evening.  I think in this day and age, it make take some informal them more formal introduction to convince people that online is the way to go and it is here to stay.  To sum it up, I think it takes a special person to embrace on line learning.

                            • Re: Online or not to online, that is the question.
                              Bowerman@cox.net

                              I'm an online learning geek, so I'm always looking for courses that will help me in my classroom. I also facilitate courses for several providers and love the convenience of logging in when I have time, but I also know that this is not always the best way to learn for all people. Some people assume that online learning is easier or that it's comparable to chatting with friends in Social Network sites. Many are surprised to find that online courses can be as rigorous or even more so than F2F courses.

                               

                              It helps for newer users to have a consistent platform and course expectations. Facilitators need to be thoroughly trained and have consistent feedback from their coaches or supervisors. It's difficult as a learner and as a facilitator to have different expectations for different courses - if minimal responses earn you a top score in one course but not the other, it can be very confusing. The more tech support a learner has (pre-courses to help you learn the platform, help documents, videos or screen shots, etc.), the easier it is to focus on the content of the course. After all, the content should be the main reason for being in a course.

                          • Re: Online or not to online, that is the question.

                            I think that online classes have many advantages. The biggest disadvantage would have to be the level of technology skills of the participants. The make participants more comforable screen casts can be used to explain different topics as well as instructions for using the necessary tools. The screen casts can be played as many times as needed, stopped, paused and completed at a speed that is comforable for the user.

                              • Re: Online or not to online, that is the question.

                                What works best about online courses is that one can work at their own pace and level.  Just as there are good teachers who create a wonderful classroom learning environment and can address the needs of all the students, whatever their learning styles are, much in the same way, a lot depends on the facilitator of the online course. A good online facilitator can bring life into the course which otherwise would be quite mundane

                              • Re: Online or not to online, that is the question.

                                I like on-line classes, but many teachers are more comfortable in a face-to-face environment.  Just getting some teachers to use the computer for attendance etc. took a number of years.  But, we have to face the fact that technology is here to stay, and students are more high tech and they look for and enjoy technology in their lessons.

                                • Re: Online or not to online, that is the question.
                                  blancaedu

                                  I agree with the posts here. Online courses can be exciting and rich and valuable but they can also be overwhelming and mundane. Much depends on the facilitator but there are outside factors as well which need to be considered. Setting expectations in the beginning is probably the most important task to ensure a successful course experience for teachers. Posting feedback in a timely manner, making sure the technology that they have available will do what you need it to do, is also important. Again, it all goes back to expectation. Having course materials available ahead of time, as well as course requirements, etc. are all helpful essentials that can help a person achieve a successful online course experience.

                                   

                                  The Essentials Course I have conducted have been f2f, hybrid, and (almost all) online. Expectation was key in all of the sessions. Because the online discussions didn't leave much opportunity for people to get to know one another, I found that supplementing with a tool like Elluminate worked nicely, to engage participants in real time, who felt "disconnected" from others. Asking participants at different intervals for feedback about their experience is a good way to gauge if and when a group is "disconnecting". Conducting online sharing sessions can go a long way in helping people feel valued. Even in courses where people have never seen each other, a session where they can hear other laugh and emphatize can go a long way.

                                   

                                  I think part of the beauty of professional development is finding others with whom there is a connection. Online courses, especially those where people come from all around the world, or even different cultures, etc. can be difficult for a participant if there isn't time for the class to get to "know" each other. Sure, if I want to know more about a topic, I can view a video. If I am not interested in making a connection, I will take a self-facilitated course. Lord knows there are plenty available. However, when I take courses, I want to learn about the other people in the class. I want to know what they are interested in, good at, their hobbies, their experiences, etc. Part of the learning experience for me, is to build my PLN so of course, not being able to "connect" on different levels with others would make it an unfavorable experience. I think online courses, with proper care are a wonderful opportunity for people to learn in a different way. To online, or not online? Online

                                  • Re: Online or not to online, that is the question.
                                    dgoodman_1958

                                    I just came across this Checklist for Online Instructors.  What would you change or add to this list?

                                      • Re: Online or not to online, that is the question.
                                        holmesg

                                        Deborah,

                                        One of the things that I would do differently on the list is instead of asking for phone numbers; especially in lieu of the fact that students must pay for cell phone minutes, I would share with them my skype user name and ask that they download skype and use it to communicate with me.  The first assignment would be to have students contact me through skype.