Reflection on Fink’s (2013) Integrated Course Design Approach
Designing an online unit is something very new to me and I feel I understand the basics because most of what is done online is also used in the face-to-face classroom. Taxonomies are nothing new to me and I understand the need to have well-rounded objectives and goals when designing a lesson plan or unit. The most difficult aspect of integrated course design for me is balancing what I like to do in the face-to-face classroom with what is possible in the online learning environment. I like discussion and that can be done in the online learning environment, but it requires a certain readiness and maturity. I have come to realize that when designing an online lesson with an 8th grade audience in mind that the discussion component I like to utilize in my teaching will need to be modified or at least the teaching goals I would have for a discussion will have to be met with other activities. I have had to change my mindset from imagining synchronous sessions to a totally asynchronous class. With integrated course design, creating community is important and I wanted to do this through discussion and sharing. But I feel with my choice of teaching 8th grade students the community building is going to be mostly a teacher-student relational, maybe with an optional discussion board component.
The most beneficial part of integrated course design that Fink (2013) has taught me is to consider the situational factors. When designing an online course I feel there are a lot more factors to consider. The students are the same, but the environment requires one to rethink how those same students will be successful in an online learning environment. I have to really think about online learning readiness and how to design a successful unit around the fact that students may not be ready for all the tools and benefits of the online learning environment. It has made me realize that online learning is not for every student and I appreciate the K-12 face-to-face classroom social interactions more and more. I never realized how much I would have to narrow my audience of students for an 8th grade online class.
Reflections on the Online Learning Environment
I personally think the online learning environment is much more difficult and more time consuming than a face-to-face setting whether you are the teacher or the student. You have to be a motivated self-directed learner. I like the online learning environment for the convenience, flexibility, and the change of space. I always learn something new because online classes are so diverse in the students who take them, which exposes me to different perspectives and ways of thinking. The think time that an online class allows also is nice because I can really chew on my own thinking and reflect on what I have learned.
Learning About Myself as a Learner and Teacher
I have learned that I enjoy a variety of learning environments. The online learning environment meets my learning needs, but I do not think I could only take online courses. I crave the social interaction of the face-to-face setting as much as I like the think time of the online classroom. The reason I think I like exposing myself to a variety of learning situations and environments is because I am a teacher and love to learn. I want to learn how to create the best learning environment for students and that requires putting myself in the position of student from time to time. I can view my learning experiences from both the perspective of student and teacher. I feel this class balance that desire well because I am participating as a student in the online learning environment, but I am also learning how to be a teacher in it too.
As a teacher I have learned that I do not prefer to teach in the online learning environment. I think I would prefer a blended environment in the K-12 arena. If I taught in higher education I do not think I would have a problem teaching a completely online class. There is a part of me that wonders what it would be like to go and work for a virtual K-12 school because many aspects are similar to homeschooling. Maybe one day I will just have to give it a try.