Welcome to the second BlogFlash event! The first (#BlogFlash2012) was so well received that we decided to run it twice yearly. It’s a great opportunity to get creative, meet other bloggers and get a new audience. Whether you join us for the full month or just a few days, the main aim is to have fun and be inspired. Anything else is a bonus. Worried about word count? Don’t be! It’s a guideline so the month doesn’t feel overwhelming but if you feel inspired to write more, feel free. Good luck!

#BlogFlash2013: Day Twenty – Education

Online learning

Online learning

I began teaching my BC courses online in 2009. At the time, most online courses relied on static platform like Blackboard for posting and retrieving assignments and chat rooms or email for regular communication. Wimba Live Classroom, a platform BC introduced that year, allowed me to teach in real time. As with G+ or Skype, I broadcast via video and microphone. I could post slides, enabling students to follow along as I talked, pull in outside media-such as podcasts or YouTube videos. I could also place students in separate breakout rooms for work on collaborative projects.

For two years, I taught 6 classes a semester online and 8 per semester on campus. Busy students could attend nearly half their classes from the comfort of their home or dorm room; the rest of the semester, I taught and we interacted in person, which helped us get to know one another, built trust, and encouraged personal interaction.

When Dave and I moved to California in 2011, I switched to an online only format. Students, as always, shied away from turning on their video (they probably didn’t want the rest of us to see them in pajamas or for me to know they were ‘multi-tasking’). As a result, I never saw my students and never truly got to know them.


Interaction in education

Through active conversation, you learn a lot about people, not only who’s paying attention and who’s dozing off-though you see that too, of course-but how people interact with one another, through their tone, their body language, and you get a sense of their intellect, what arouses their curiosity, how they focus and argue a position. If a student seemed happy, one of us invariably commented and he or she often shared the good news. I knew when students were struggling or depressed and stepped in to help. Little of this results from dialogue facilitated by a chat line.

Despite mimicking the classroom experience, the online platforms reduced classes to their utilitarian function; students attended for a reason-to learn a skill or fill a requirement. Students register for classes on campus for the same reasons. In person, the vitality in a classroom arises from formulating questions, examining strategies and information, exploring ideas. Students are often surprised to discover new interests; with human interaction, the class evolves in unpredictable ways.

Online classes provide opportunities for education that, five or ten years ago, were little more than a dream. As online classes expand, they take in new students and offer tremendous possibilities for shut-ins, those who for one reason or another can’t get to class, and for people in underserved areas across the planet. For now, though, at least until technologies improve, it’s too soon to raze those old buildings.

Final prompt: Success (29th March)

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