This article outlines ten advantages to taking online classes and include points such as no travel, being able to continue with your work and study at the same time, less associated costs etc.
In the early 90s, I began working on my nursing degree through a distance education program from St. F.X. University. Things went relatively well but I got discouraged when I realized that in order to complete my degree, I would have to actually leave home to attend a university as there were a number of courses that were not available through distance ed. Because of that, I did not complete my degree. Today, with so much learning available online, my experience might have been different and I would probably have kept at it.
I took my first totally online course, The Adult Learner, in the winter of 2015. If you look back on the weather conditions during that time, I am sure you will agree that I couldn’t have picked a better time to take an online course! I loved the convenience of it. Living in the western end of PEI means I travel a lot…for shopping, my children’s activities, meetings and education. Not having to make that 4 hour round trip to Charlottetown each week for class was a godsend. So this article totally makes sense to me when it talks about the learning in the comfort in your own home plus not having to worry about travel.
Another thing I liked about the online course was the feeling I had of being in control. I could set my own pace (within the limits of due dates) and never had to give a thought about the progress of the rest of the class and whether or not I had to slow down to let others catch up or struggle to keep up myself.
I was surprised to hear that a good number of the students who took the class the same time as I did were not that impressed with it. The main issue was the lack of face to face interaction with the instructor and other students. However, from my point of view, the instructor provided adequate support by being available by email, answering questions during our real time classes and connecting us together as classmates in various ways. The class material was well organized and easily located. The only drawback was the occasional problem with the technology, Blackboard Collaborate in particular. There are always glitches with technology but then, there are always glitches in real life as well. I would do an online course again without any hesitation.
This afternoon I was sitting on our cottage veranda with my soon-to-be 17-year-old daughter. She has always had strong opinions on education and I thought I would ask her opinion about the use of technology in the classroom. As usual, she had lots to say! Basically she feels that people her age are not as keen on technology as we might think. “it’s not going to make kids like school any better”, she says. “Most of us get all the technology we want at home.”
She had lots more to say but this is a blog not a book so I will try to summarize. Good teaching is what matters and that involves a lot more than the use of the latest and greatest technology. Carefully thought out lesson plans and good organization are factors that she touched on as well as concern for the students’ progress and treating them with respect.
Do I think there is a place for technology in education? Yes, I do. The same as I believe there is a place for textbooks and desks, whiteboards and markers or chalkboard and chalk! They are all just tools and when we pick a tool, we should be thinking of what we want to do with it and how efficient it will be. Will it make our lives easier or just add stress? Will it get the job done? Will it foster student learning? Will it cost us so much in time that perhaps other aspects of our job get short-changed; like student-instructor interaction for instance.
I have certainly come a long way in my comfort level with the use of technology in the last few years. Even this time last year, I’m sure I could not have handled ED366. But I came into the course ready for the challenge and I did all right. I gained knowledge of new tools and some of them I will continue to use. But the best part of the whole class was the camaraderie; learning from each other and supporting each other. The human interaction in other words. And from reading other peoples’ blogs, others seem to feel the same way. So, I say choose your technology carefully and remember that those are human beings in front of you, even the ones you may only have contact with through a computer screen!
On Sunday morning, I sat down to work on one of the article discussion assignments. It was a lengthy article and as I read, I made notes on a word document. After writing a couple of sentences, I saved it in my documents then wrote, and rewrote and edited, continually saving it as I went, then closed it to put away for the time being. A few minutes later, I wanted to re-open it. And couldn’t find it. I searched and searched. It would not even come up in recent documents. Total panic!
Eventually, my daughter found it for me. It was buried in a document with a different name and the original one had disappeared. “This is never going to happen to me again!” I vowed and promptly copied and pasted the article into googledocs. The original lost one was one of the first blogs I had done and it doesn’t matter that it is gone…though it is on ed366.com so not really gone, I guess! Anyway, a lesson learned for sure. Or maybe a lesson re-learned because I have had it happen before and then learned to back up files on USBs. So when my laptop crashed this past winter, I didn’t lose anything of any real value. It was all on a USB.
Through ED366, I have been introduced to googledocs. With each day that goes by in this course, I am becoming more convinced that this is the way to store my material. And the incident on Sunday really cemented that so I definitely plan to learn more about that system in the near future.
I looked up Evernote and Mendeley, two digital filing cabinets (can I call them that?) and they do sound quite interesting. I found this article which discusses social bookmarking tools such as twitter, linkedin and other ones that Dave has mentioned over the past week. It is starting to make some sense to me!
Okay, so I am sold on the idea. Computers crash and USBs break, get lost and malfunction. Seems like digital storage is the way to go. Once ED366 is over, perhaps I will have time to go explore some of these options! Gotta go…time for class!
It was great to get home today and great to be able to make the trip in my own car after a week of driving a rental. I was certainly appreciative of the fact that my insurance covered the cost of a rental while the repairs on my vehicle were being completed. But the rental was an automatic and I’ve been driving cars with a standard transmission for years and I love it. My daughters tell me that it’s because I am a control freak and I tell them they’re just jealous because they can’t drive a standard!
But, I have to admit, my girls are right. The main reason I love driving a standard is because I want to decide when it is time to shift gears. So there! As I was driving home today happily gearing up and gearing down as the need arose, and, even though metaphors tend to irritate me, I decided to compare my preference for a standard transmission with my preference for self-directed learning.
I like to be in control of my learning the same as I like control of my vehicle. Teach me, explain things to me, share your expertise with me but give me at least some control over the pace and direction. And don’t be forever looking over my shoulder while I am figuring out my own way to assimilate this knowledge into my reality.
Dave suggested we reflect on the terms self-assessment and self-remediation. Again, I see this as part of self-directed learning. I want the opportunity to provide feedback on my progress as I see it. If I am having problems, I want to lead the search for solutions. But that doesn’t mean I want a totally hands off approach on the part of the instructor. I am comfortable seeking help when I need it but there are lots of students who are not and we always need to be mindful of that population.
Having just reread my post, I am realizing that I wrote from a very self-centered perspective. Oh, well. It’s Friday, which, to me, seems like a good day to put yourself first.
With every class I have taught, it’s been my experience that there is a certain point where the students are feeling overwhelmed and frustrated and everyone’s stress level peaks. In this course, ED366, today was that day for me. It is interesting that today is our fourth day and, if I remember right, about a month (or four weeks) into the program that I teach is when this happens as well. Is there something evil about the number 4??
I left class today with that awful, sinking feeling that I get when I am overwhelmed and don’t know which task to tackle first. I don’t function well when I am at that point. Too many things swirling through my mind. Feeling overwhelmed is closely linked to feeling like you have no control over what is going on in your life. So it did help that today was the day that Dave introduced contract grading and we were all allowed input regarding our grading scheme as well as the types and numbers of assignments in the course. It gave us back a bit of control. However, by the end of class, it all seemed so chaotic and unclear, that I sensed that I wasn’t the only one experiencing some frustration!
This is my first experience with the term “contract grading” but I have always allowed my students as much input as I am free to give. I have no problem with negotiating due dates for instance. But, when you open this stuff up for negotiation, you have to be prepared for differing opinions, arguments and people getting angry and upset. You really can’t please everyone. There have been times when the students just wanted me to make the decision instead of going through the whole process of trying to make everyone happy.
So, here is my 4th blog. One thing finished on Frustration Day! Guess I am not doing too badly after all. And now I am going for a walk!!
It was a full and busy day! I was so impressed with everyone’s work and their ease up there in front of the class…true teachers, all of you, even though I believe some of the class members have not yet done much actual teaching. No doubt you will all get there if that is your wish.
As I mentally review the technology tools that we experimented with today, I also am critiquing each one as to whether or not it is something I might consider using in my classroom in the future. For me, it boils down to time. If I feel that this particular technology will be too time consuming in relation to the leaning value for the students, I will not likely use it. I have done some fun types of activities in the classroom such as Kahoot (an online trivia game, good for review). Certainly nothing wrong with having fun in the classroom. But again, I am going to look at that instructor time vs student learning ratio and base my decisions on that.
I am quite interested in googledocs (one word?) because there are no worries about losing your work, correct? There were a couple of times in the last few years that I did some work on my computer at home and if I forgot to transfer it to a USB or email it to myself, I didn’t have it when I needed it the next day. Frustrating! With googledocs, I could access it from anywhere on any computer. Quite useful! So I will be experimenting with that one.
I also liked Jing, which Eryn and I played around with. It was not complicated at all (except for trying to run it on a Mac, no offense, Dave!) and I can see that this would work well in the courses that I teach. Powtoon was quite entertaining. It may be fun to create one as an ice breaker or an introductory type tool for orientation but other than that, I am not really seeing the value in it for my purposes. I have watched Prezi presentations as a student but I can’t say I found it much different from Power Point. Slack was interesting (a naked lady eating a sausage??) but I think a facebook group would work just as well or maybe better as the majority of students would already be checking into that on a regular basis instead of having to get into something else. Khan Academy is something I want to look into more. It may have something to offer for me and my students.
I went on a little too long so goodnight! See you in the morning!
The last paragraph of this article says it all for me: cheat but be honest about it. If the student has been given permission to cheat, in my mind it really isn’t cheating at all. I would see that as more of an open book/internet resource type of assessment or as a collaborative effort if the “cheating” involves getting the answers from someone else. I have no problem with these types of assessments. Learning is a continual on-going process and I don’t see why the learning can’t be still happening during an assessment, at least for the most part.
Having said that, I’m a big believer in honesty. If a student cheats in a test and it is actual cheating in the sense that they are supposed to have this knowledge stored in their brain for whatever reason by this time, then they are being dishonest. Place that student in the work force at some point in the future. What type of an employee will they be? Not one I would want to hire and not one I would want to have to rely on as a co-worker.
I always tell my students to look things up if they aren’t sure about something. After many years working as an RN, I am well aware of the dangers of going ahead with a task without really being sure what you are doing. It is so much better to look a little dumb having to search something up than look like a real idiot if you end up making a mistake…and oh, yeah, there is also that little concern about endangering someone’s life!
Still, there also has to be a limit to having to search for information while on the job. In health care, as in many other types of professions, there just isn’t always the time for that. I have sat in my doctor’s office while he searched up something obscure and still had total confidence in his abilities. The same would not be true if I was on a stretcher in front of him in say, anaphylactic shock and he had to rely on google for guidance. Even if it isn’t really a life or death thing, what kind of world would it be if no one ever bothered to become truly proficient in their line of work?
The brain is an amazing organ. One of its main functions is to store knowledge. So why not use it?
Despite the glitches I experienced in the classroom this morning, I left feeling like I accomplished what I needed to accomplish. So all’s well that ends well as the saying goes. But what if it hadn’t ended so well? I’d be sitting here pretty frustrated tonight, trying to get caught up. Perhaps I’d even be crying as we’ve been told some past students have done. Though I doubt that. I’m really more of a kicker and a screamer than a crier!
So, again, what if the glitches just don’t get ironed out and the class time is ticking away and you’ve got “x” amount of content to cover that day and your days are already jammed packed and you’ve got a roomful of students sitting there looking at you and you’re breaking a sweat and you’re feeling like a totally inept idiot and…and…and…what then? If your lesson plan is totally technology based and things just aren’t working that day, will all be lost?
I am not a big lover of technology (could you tell ??) though over the past couple of years, as I worked on my CAE courses, I have certainly come a long way, not only in what I have learned but also in the way I look at technology in education. More and more, I am seeing how both teaching and learning can be enhanced by technology in the classroom. Most days I even enjoy it!
Still, no matter how terrific technology can be, we all know that it is only wonderful when it works and we all know that it doesn’t always work! Hence the theme of this blog which is always having a plan B to pull out of your pocket in case the original plan is shot down. When you are heading in to teach a class, you need to be prepared to teach a different way if it is going to be one of those bad tech days! I’m not sure if Dave had an actual plan B for our first class but he certainly expected glitches and was prepared to deal with them. So though things weren’t exactly smooth, at least we got through it!