October 25, 2014
Since most of my experiences teaching is direct or face to face I feel I can related to the differing taxonomies of learning, active learning and problem-based learning through my sense of integration with relationships with students in a classroom setting. However, I have designed and taught eCampus courses for three years. My teaching lens is influenced mostly by the relational part of teaching face to face and before this course, I have tried to interpret those same strategies into the eCampus format. I purposely built in activities in which student must connect to one another and process course content together.
Interestingly, when I shared this approach with some of my colleagues who primarily teach distance learning; I get confused and concerned looks. I often feel I have to defend my position to include synchronous components so students can have authentic social learning experiences. Their position is that they have designed eCampus courses so that student do not have to meet at specific times and/or the instructor is not obligated to teach on a specific day or time each week. It was as if having synchronous components defeated the reason for eCampus courses- being completely an asynchronous options for students. I can’t imagine feeling connected to the teacher or other students without it.
In fact, this course is a struggle for me personally. The content is valuable and meaningful. The text is excellent. The learning activities up to this point do not benefit a wide variety of learning styles. I see the value in written reflections, article critiques, and written comments on students work, however, I miss the verbal exchange of thoughts, ideas and wonderings. The course is heavy on reading and writing. My personal learning style includes a good dose of auditorial and kinesthetic. I lack the meaningful verbal interactions between teacher and other students. For me, meaningful learning takes place in more than one modality. For me, the synchronous component is necessary. I prefer a steady diet of it. I find that I feel better connected to the course content and can learn more deeply if I get to bat around the ideas and content of the course with others in synchronous time, without having to compose a precise and grammatically correct written statement. Which, for me takes many hours to compose successfully. Since taking distance courses, the best courses are those in which there is a weekly synchronous component facilitated by a competent instructor who, instead of lecturing, selects hands-on, interactive activities with small groups of students or didactic pairings. It takes time for students to grow comfortable with sharing. It takes time for students to learn each other well enough to understand one another’s perspective in light of their occupation, temperament and learning styles. The success of such interactive sessions requires students to minimize the eventual issues of potential intimidation, proper online etiquette, and vulnerability. Once students are able to feel comfortable with the relationship aspects of distance education interfaces, in my experience, learning become richer and more meaningful. If I could change this course, I would require a weekly or bi-weekly synchronous session with a fixed agenda of interactive learning experiences.
The more I learn about designing significant learning experiences the more it affirms my selection of course assessments, feedback, learning and teaching activities in my face to face courses. It also causes me to pause about the eCampus courses I have designed and teach and wonder if I am capturing the excellent processes outlined in the book and supplemental sources. I struggle to decide if those courses are effective due to my inexperience with eCampus course development rather than perhaps I do not have all the elements or enough of the right elements articulated in the pages of the book. I sense that it may be a little of both. I am excited that I will have the opportunity and resources to answer that question more fully this summer when I have time to sort through the materials in this course again and develop/adopt useful exhibits that will help me derive an answer. I think the way to really understand this material is to apply the concept to several courses I teach, assess the courses ongoing, make changes based on measurable evidence and have the opportunity to tweak the course on-going several times over the course of a couple of semesters.
As far as my own reflection of my strategies for learning so far in the course, I have learned that I need to read and reread the texts assignment several times a week before attempting the written assignment or application. I am one of the unfortunate learners where I am not able to remember what I have read on reading it one time. I not only need to review and read again and again, I have to apply it right away or I lose important facts and concepts quickly. I am envious of learners who can rely on their memory. My husband has a book “How to Read a Book; The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading’ by Adler & Van Doren. At first, I did not understand the benefit of this book. Didn’t we learn how to read books in preschool and primary school? My husband is a doctoral student. He said it was one of the most important books he has ever read despite being a student. So I browsed the content pages- which is one of their strategies for successful reading- it included the following: The Dimensions of Reading, Analytical Reading, Approaches to Different Kinds of Reading Matter, and The Ultimate Goals of Reading. I was amazed at what I could learn about reading from reading this bookJ
In conclusion, my number one metacognition strategy this semester is applying some of the principles of this book since we are doing a good bit of reading. I am working on implementing The Activity and Art of Reading: Active Reading, The Goals of Reading: Reading for Information and Reading for Understanding, Reading as Learning; the Difference between Learning by Instruction and Learning by Discovery, Present and Absent Teachers.
Adler, M. J., & Van Doren, C. (1972). How to Read a Book; The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Fink, L. D. (2013). Creating Significant Learning Experiences An Integrated Approach to Designing College Courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey- Bass.