EDDL 5141             Week 3:  Activity 1                    Michael

I have participated in several online courses over the past year and they have all been different. The one that worked best for me was the synchronous one (different place but same time) where we met as a group (of 20) on Day 1 for 7 hours, got to know each other and our professor, and had all of our questions answered as to how the course would be conducted.  After that, we met on Wednesdays from 6 – 9pm on Blackboard Collaborate.  We discussed our opinions on the readings, we viewed and discussed short videos, and we made concrete plans on how we would change what we were doing as teachers.  Collaborate allowed us to break out into ‘rooms’ for small group discussions and that allowed for a greater depth of sharing.  It took some time to work out the glitches with the hardware and software, but there was a technician on hand at the start of the first few classes who helped to solve most of our problems.

The other courses were asynchronous (different time, different place), but they all had assignments and blogs due at specific times so they were paced, not learn-at-your-own pace.  It is difficult to get a read on the other participants in the course and it takes a while for the trust level to build and by that time the courses are over.  Meeting in the flesh allows for personal exchange – hearing, seeing, smelling, feeling, observing body language – and it adds that human touch.  I think that that has a major impact on collaboration, on working in small groups and in the larger group.  Nevertheless, one of my other courses was Statistics, where we had a text to read and a program to learn on our own, and the density of ‘fog factor’ pulled us together to find solutions as a group.  The prof and the TA were always observing in the background and would participate when asked to do so.

My worst experience was the course where I handed in 7 assignments, a mid-term, and 2 final projects (one of which was a group project) and never got any feedback until after the course was over.  The mid-term was marked 3 days after the final.  That experience underscored the anxiety that students experience when there isn’t constant contact and timely feedback on the part of the teacher.

For the group of carpentry apprentices that I would be teaching online, I think that it would only work if we met each other as a group, up front, explained how the course would be run, helped each one with hardware and software issues, and then continued the instruction part of the course in a synchronous fashion.  As individuals reach their comfort level with the technology, they can opt to participate asynchronously, at their own pace.  Provisions would be made for drop-in sessions and we would meet on campus for the practical projects.  Those who live in close proximity would be encouraged to meet together for the sessions and to collaborate on the assignments, over food, drink, and sports.  Final testing would be done on campus.


5 Comments on Week 3: Activity 1

  1. Tzveta says:

    As you say meeting in flesh is something I miss in online courses. And the other thing about the feedback, you can get stressed if you don’t receive any answer from your teacher. I’m studying my degree in Spain in an online unveristy and it is frustrating when you send your assignments and sometimes, it takes weeks to get your results.

  2. kmckay says:

    I appreciate your feelings about meeting in person. I miss this part about being an online teacher. With the course I teach right now we meet students in person the spring before they are to start the course and go over a few technical things with them. We (groups of teachers) also have them complete and submit the first assignment for the course. It is a great way to make connections with the students but it is also hard for some of them to pick it up in September without having done much over the summer (some of the keen students will finish the course before September over their summer break).
    I do agree that meeting in person is a great tool to create connections. I think that connecting with the students is key to success especially with secondary students. They might not have the motivation that a paying student would have when taking an online course. Paula mentioned a high drop out rate in her courses and that it might be related to a lack of connection. I agree with this statement, although I do teach a course that is required to graduate so that makes it hard for kids to ‘drop out’, I do see other teachers in my school that have students drop out for various reasons (this is only based on empirical evidence however).

  3. gjohnson says:

    I’m interested in what an online carpentry course might look like. I think the course content and purpose really does drive the delivery of the course. It must be different teaching a course with exact answers and methods, versus teaching a course that is philosophical in nature or where there is no real right answer. I think that the method of delivery in the course must change to reflect these things. I agree with your wanting to connect with your students, and I think from a student’s perspective this makes a course more meaningful.

  4. keith webster says:

    Hi Michael,

    I think for your subject area a blended model is probably the way online learning could make an impact. Before I left the Canadian Forces all our training courses had adopted a ‘distance’ portion (usually a print-pack) to be completed prior to arrival for training, and in many cases an on-the-job training component to be completed at the unit after the training. We did benefit from high motivation and cooperation from both the trainee and their ’employers’.


  5. Khaula says:

    Personally, I used to like face-to-face classroom for myself until this semester but the way we all can interact and see and comment on each others’ work and especially know little bit about each other, i don’t miss it that much. However,when I can’t figure out how to do some technical thing in my homework, I wish Keith was here to show me how to do it in secs. I also love the flexibilty associated with it. Though for carpentary classes, i will prefer blended learning for sure.
    It must have been really hard for you not to get any feedback until after the course.

Leave a Reply