Saturday, October 2, 2010

First reflections - online learning

As I study and practice the roles in the online learning experience, I am finding how different it really is from the classroom experience.

In the classroom the teacher presents, the learners are more passive, and the resources are brought to the classroom for students to take home and absorb through homework or practice. You can gage the absorption of the material through eye contact, body language, and Q & A and adjust the content accordingly.

In the online environment, you need a tremendous amount of preparation of content that is visually engaging, and incorporates audio or video and a great deal of interaction so as to reach a vast array of learning styles and attention spans. In addition to being a subject matter expert, you need to be an engaging interpersonal communicator. Much more so than in the classroom it seems to me.

And then there are the tech needs, the instructor needs to be tech saavy as well as the learners in the online environment. You have to make sure everyone can access the system and can get through to the urls, and understands how to function and use the materials - mics headphones, video) for ease of learning. For an older teacher like myself, its a bit intimidating and exciting to be honest.

To help people relax in a classroom you can be welcoming, tell a joke or two, and people relax. In the online environment to help people relax, you also need a good sense of humor, but you have to help them want to engage with the system and want to engage with the content. Comfort zones become part of the experience, and the teacher has to create emotional engagement with each person and help them be comfortable, or s/he will loose them from the beginning.

So the teacher needs to know what the learning environment is for each student, work or home. And the demands of that environment need to be considered and the instruction tailored accordingly.

Interaction activities have to be a major part of the lesson plan, in both synchronous and asynchronous environments. And that fascinates me. And was a surprise. I'm really looking forward to figuring out how to create interactive moments in my classes - because I can see how the benefits of interaction reinforces the content through active sharing and comparing, and intensifies the bonding of the learners the absorption of the material, and the engagement with the instructor. What fun - I hope!


  1. Rhonda -- I really enjoyed your post and felt your comments about helping your learners to relax in the on-line classroom were right on. Your sight looks great and I particularly liked your About Me section. Thanks for sharing with us!

  2. HI Rhonda,
    I thought I posted a comment on your blog on Saturday, but now I don't see it, so maybe I did not comment correctly. I am trying again now to see if this works.
    PS I liked your positive attitude about all this being "fun."

  3. Hi Rhonda - I also thought I posted the other day... guess it didn't stick! I really liked your comments on "emotional engagement"- I think that it can be a lot more difficult to get a read on students in an online environment, so that "emotional engagement" is really something you have to work for.

  4. Thanks Rhonda!

    I look forward to your continued thoughts on how collaboration and engagement can help in the online classroom. As we move forward with the class I encourage you to cast yourself in the role of the instructor and look for opportunities to do more and better than I'm doing and to share those ideas. This process will make both of us better in our practice!

    While a bit intimidating at first, I think the online classroom is fun in spite of its challenges and I'm glad you are finding it so. I hope you continue to find excitement and learning as we move forward!


    P.S.--Fun reading about what an accomplished artist you are!

  5. Hi Rhonda-
    I was very hesitant about taking an online course. I was intimidated by the technology. I thought I wouldn't be able to pay attention or keep up with an online class. However, like you, I'm enjoying the class and taking a lot away from it.
    Great blog! I especially liked you comments about having a sense of humor and creating a comfort zone.


  6. Hi Rhonda:
    I was intereted in what you wrote and agreed for the most part. The only thing that I would point out is that there has been a push for traditional face-to-face instruction to incorporate more ways to engage students through the use of multi-media, facilitation, collaboration and group discussion, from K to college. I would argue that good, thoughtful and engaging instruction goes a long way whether in a synchronous or asynchronous environment.
    By the way, I also tried to post a few times on your page and lost my post.

  7. Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Engagement, community and discussion whether in the class or out of the class, produces wonderful insights.