I’ll take an Education Smoothie, please.

A few weeks ago, we covered blended and online instruction in my W200 class. I began class not in my room, but from the safety of the TTL (which, if you are not familiar with my building, is across the hall from the classroom). I ended up flittering back and forth between classroom and TTL, ensuring audio and video both worked for the Adobe Connect session. It was quite a different feeling than being a student, not really having to worry about these issues.

I have never been a very good purely online student. I’ve done it successfully once, taking a Geography course from a community college in the middle of NY while I was enjoying the warm sunshine of the northern part of the state. The class was broken up into modules, which we could work on at our own pace over the course of the summer (with some deadlines built in). The class was totally asynchronous, and honestly, not engaging at all (and this is coming from someone with some sort of interest in the subject!).

Fast forward a few years, I figured I would take a stab at taking another purely online course (the course I am writing this blog for). The next part will be a bit of reflection on taking a purely online class, and in particular for this class:

Purely online learning is not for everyone. I am not sure it is for me. The synchronous sessions were what made the class for me – being able to talk and listen with experts from around the world, and discuss ideas with colleagues from across the country allowed for a broader spectrum of educational opportunity for me. The ability to instantly share resources, videos, talk, and not have to worry about a question being a “dumb” question were all helpful and liberating for me as a student. The fact the sessions were recorded for later viewing made it even better.

However, the scale does tip the other way – assignments and coursework, and more specifically, the motivation to do them. I found myself pushing the assignments off, saying “Oh, tomorrow.” and “Oh…next week.” Well, here we are, Finals Week, and guess who is playing catch up? (I don’t recommend this method of submitting assignments, by the way). While the assignments were very relevant to the course content, because I was not in a physical building, with peers reminding me constantly about upcoming assignments (“Did you do X yet? What are you covering for Y?”), I found it difficult to remain organized and motivated. A severe drawback, in my opinion, of my own organizational skills, and one which hampers my effectiveness in taking a purely online class.

It may not be for everyone, but online education does offer opportunity for everyone, and that is more important than any drawback I can think of. I cannot explain it any better than how distance education and online learning are being viewed by the Salmon River Central School District in NY. This district is located just off the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation in Hogansburg, NY, and is a location I had my field experience as a pre-service teacher, and part of my student teaching. In analyzing their technology plan and budget, there is a section devoted to Distance Learning – not only where students will be able to take courses they would otherwise not be able to take (certain AP courses, remedial courses, languages), but also where students and teachers can provide classes (Mohawk language, Native Film studies, Native American cultural classes) for students across the state and the world. Having been at the school district, I can only see this helping students, some of whom have little to no interest in school because they do not feel connected to it, either culturally or intellectually. This program will allow them to expand their own cultural exposure, and spread the ideas of their own culture as well.

Personally, I have had much more success with blended classes, where an online component supplemented the instruction of the face-to-face sessions. The History of Music class I took stands out in my mind, where .mp3s were shared on the website, assignments submitted, and lectures and discussions on the music occurred in the face to face sessions.

Much of my experience has been that of a student in blended learning and online learning environments, and with mixed success. W200  can be considered a blended learning environment, with a robust online component to supplement the material covered in class. But I am taking the next step: Summer session II 2012, I will be teaching W200 at IUPUC in a blended environment. While I am still working the details out, it seems that it will have a much larger online component than I am used to teaching with.

Am I completely turned off to Online only instruction? Far from it – I can see the benefits of it, particularly through the Open Courses being offered at many prestigious universities such as MIT, or for those who do not or cannot have access to a traditional school environment (athletes, musicians, travelers, drop-outs, at-risk students, etc.).

But it’s not for me. I need that face-to-face time. (I passed by Kim in the grocery store, and didn’t even realize it was her until she connected the two for me, and that makes me not feel good at all).

So, one Education Smoothie please, extra blended!


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2 Comments on “I’ll take an Education Smoothie, please.”

  1. What qualities or skills might match up well with online? It was very interesting reading your reflection on your experience since I have taken only 3 classes F2F since 1999. I hated all of them. I found that my time was wasted by being forced to sit there and pretend to be focused. Online, I can do loads of things. In synchronous sessions, I can listen and watch my twitter feed to see if there are any great new tech ed stories that I should also be aware of. One signficant drawback that I have found is that I don’t know how a lot of newly developed terms are pronounced. I was one who didn’t know that GUI was “gooey” since all of my courses had been asynchronous and only reading and writing.

    Do you envision a throwback to more traditional classroom paradigms once the novelty of online wears off?

    • brhoey Says:

      I think there may be, but it also very much depends on how technology evolves. If we ever have a holodeck…well… =)

      I find myself very distracted when in a purely online session – I almost feel as if there is less accountability because there is no one monitoring you, making sure you are on task. From the instructor side, this can be scary. From the student side, yes, it can be liberating, but it can also be distracting – more than once I’ve found myself looking up something not related to the class session, or walking out for a moment. I think that personally, I would gain more F2F. Maybe I’m just an old fashioned kinda guy

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