Reflections on Learning: Integrated Course Design and the Online Environment

Weekly Writing 7 – Lori Sowa

I have learned a tremendous amount about integrated course design and taxonomies through this course.   What I am seeking in my current education is the educational content knowledge that I lack, and so I very much appreciate that this course is every bit as much about “pedagogy” as it is about “online”.   The most valuable lesson for me is stepping away from the basic content of a course and thinking about, planning for, and valuing other types of learning.   I believe this becomes all the more important when designing on online course, because so much of the course must be scripted beforehand.   Effective spontaneity is more difficult to achieve online.

I experienced perhaps the most poignant difficulty so far with teaching in the online environment earlier this week.   In a synchronous Blackboard session, I provided some engineering content before students performed hands-on activities (tower-building) individually.   I talked about towers failing due to either individual members breaking (strain) or from the tendency to rotate (called “moment”).   After the activity, I was trying to point out to a student that when his tower was leaning, this was an example of the tendency to rotate, and he typed “not rotating, leaning” in the chat box.   If I had been in a classroom I could surely have clarified this point with him with hand gestures, chalk on the chalk board, or demonstrating with a tower.   But instead, I just let it go because I couldn’t think of a way to readily explain it with the tools available to me.   If it had been a major point of the lesson, then surely I could have pulled up a blank slide and fumbled my way through use of the drawing tools to at least attempt an explanation, but it was a small point and so I just let it go.   It still   bugs me, though, and so perhaps I’ll try to find a relevant link to share to make up for my inability to provide a better explanation at the time.   I’m still not sure this is an inherent disadvantage of the technology, or just my inexperience with dealing with these types of situations online.

I am grateful for the availability of online courses – otherwise it would not be possible for me to pursue this degree (without some major life changes).   While some may question the medium, it is hard to question the demand for it.   In my opinion the online environment for this course has been highly effective, albeit time-consuming to complete all of the activities.   However, I don’t think the time commitment it is out of line with face-to-face courses.   As always, there is variety in every medium and type of classroom.

What I have learned about myself as a learner is that I find asynchronous discourse to be an effective means of both collaboration and learning through reflection.   This is due to the practices employed here.   I appreciate the quick and meaningful feedback from the instructor and the others in the course.   The specific guideline about number of responses expected is valuable and gives me a goal to strive for (even if I don’t achieve it each week).   I’m not sure what the teaching future holds for me, but I am sure that I will be better prepared to develop and refine both online and face-to-face classes in the future.


21 thoughts on “Reflections on Learning: Integrated Course Design and the Online Environment

  1. Owen

    Lori, I especially appreciated your real-world example of the challenge you faced earlier in the week with the leaning vs. rotating teaching moment. Even in face-to-face classes sometimes those moments arise that just can’t be addressed for one reason or another. It is the persistent nagging feeling of an opportunity missed that makes for a better outcome next time, and the next, and so on. An internal drive towards self-assessment, revision, and another try. As I mentioned in AnneMarie’s reflection piece below – this is the natural learning cycle, I think.
    Well done.

  2. Bob

    “Moment” I, as a supervisor, have to encourage you to venture into that awkward place-time. “God is in the details” as they say. Maybe you could have back channeled the conversation with the student… “Hey, I want to clarify about leaning and rotation. We should Skype, or e-mail, or, … whatever. I’m just saying that from a supervisor’s point of view if I can catch the employee as quickly as possible and correct the error both directly and respectfully I have maximum impact.

    I hope this comes off as encouragement not as criticism. Everyday I ask myself if this is the beach or hill that I want to die on, but, “moment” is fleeting and so pivotal. And well I know about landing flat footed and not knowing how to make the correction — just do it even if it is awkward. Trust yourself.


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