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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Challenges Faced by Online Education
This blog post was inspired by a forum post by my classmate, Andrey Murphy, in my PIPD 3240 course at Vancouver Community College.
There are plenty of Pros and Cons to Online Education.  Overall, it is my view that most learners are better served by traditional classroom education or a hybrid of the two. I believe Online Education has some my key challenges to overcome:
Homework is still homework
A Flipped Classroom is another term for pre-assigned reading (or online research) ie ‘homework’ this is only successful if learners buy in and do it; otherwise, instead of prepared, engaged learners your end up with resentful, overwhelmed people who give up.
Lack of Modeling by the instructor
There is not an abundance of modeling by instructors in online courses.  Many students learn by modeling the behavior of instructors and classmates.  As my classmate Barb Horton put it, ‘monkey see, monkey do’ is a great way to model expected performance.
Lack of extrinsic motivation to learn
Online is all about self-motivation (intrinsic); if you desire or require a lot of interaction you are out of luck.  An example of this is when it came to writing journal entries for my PIPD3240 course.  I basically read a passage, wrote my observations and that was it.  No insights from anyone, so I only learned what I thought.  From my experiences in teaching and studying literature, most of the best insights arise from a discussion with the instructor and classmates. Opportunity lost.
Lectures are still lectures
Watching a video can be instructive and entertaining; however, it is not a replacement for real life interaction, activities and discussion.  See above.
What actual skills are the students learning?
Are we teaching critical thinking?  Are we encouraging the development of new meanings and understandings?  Are we demonstrating for them how to perform a task or skill?  Sure, learners are encouraged to figure it out for themselves; however, how do they know if they are doing it correctly or not?  Bad grades? Great way to frustrate a learner.
Lack of the Institutional/Academic Post-Secondary ‘Experience’.
Logging into a course does not make you feel like you are part of something: a large part of the Post-Secondary Experience is being on campus, meeting new instructors, meeting other students and experiencing the campus.  Some of the best friends I have, I met twenty-five years at university (yes, I am old).  Banging away at a laptop does not feel like academic life.

Like said by others, online courses are accessible 24-7 and you can adjust your schedule to accommodate your learning.  Also, with the exception of VCC, online courses can be much less expensive and you do not have to commute, buy meals, etc.
However, there is very limited interaction and what exists is not the same as face to face interaction with the instructor and fellow students.  In my courses at the King Edward Campus, I got to know and develop bonds with many of my fellow learners in class sizes from 22-24.  In this class of 39, I have only sort of gotten to know 3 new people?
I found that interacting with other students helped me complete my assignments in other courses (what is a Dacum?, which chapter?), this online course less so.  I realize that the answer to every question is self-direction; however, I sometimes feel it can lead to misdirection and when it happens it is our own fault?
I had an A' Ha moment the other day while tutoring a student.  She was tired, had little energy (it is hard to go to school after being in school all day, or work for that matter).  I changed things around and turned her into my teacher and we practiced articles, grammar and spelling by her writing a story and correcting it as we when along.  I have no idea how to do this online?  How do I read a room online?  
The only way I can think of it working is maybe in a literature course and using surveys and prompts for students to respond to; however, this relies totally on them doing the work.  At the end, I can assess their assignments; however, I do not really get to know them nor do they get to know me or pickup that 'something' that is not on the Dacum, that A' Ha we all keep talking about.
I guess my view of online learning so far is, you teach yourself: great for those that enjoy learning on their own, not so much for those that learn better from direct interpersonal communication and modeling by others.
Here is some research I find echoes my sentiments
This article is by Shelly Wright and how she has found the flipped classroom model has and has not worked for her classes.
I have edited a summary below; however, here is the full link:
1) I dislike the idea of giving my students homework.  
"Alfie Kohn’s book The Homework Myth.shows that homework has no long-term impact on academic achievement".
2) A lecture by video is still a lecture. 
The reality is that many if not most teachers who opt for the flipped classroom strategy are not pursuing a student-centred approach to teaching and learning. The traditional model of learning is simply being reversed, instead of being reinvented. The lecture (live or on video) is still front and center.
3) I want my students to own their learning.  
Letting students teach themselves is not giving students control over their education; however, it may be creating new markets for content-oriented videos and related materials.
As my students worked with me to invent our own version of student-centred learning, we realized that the three questions every student in our classroom had to answer were:
What are you going to learn?
2. How are you going to learn it?
3. How are you going to show me your learning? 
4) My students need to be able to find and critically evaluate their own resources. 
It is all well and great to tell them what to do; however, it is also important to provide them with a little instruction on how to do it for themselves
Another article by Lisa Nielson, I did some minor editing to this one, the link is below:
1.    We have yet to bridge the digital divide...Many of our students don't have access to technology at home.  The flipped classroom method does not have strong provisions in place for these children. 
2.    Flipped homework is still homework...Homework is an extension of instruction, not a replacement.
3.    More Time for bad pedagogy…Flipping instruction might end up just meaning we can provide time to do more of the same type of memorization and regurgitation teaching that just doesn't work.  When I shared the idea of the Flipped Classroom with an administrator, she said to me with excitement, "This is great!  We'll have more class time to prepare kids for the tests!"
4.    Grouping by date of manufacture... If we really want transformation in education, one thing we must do is stop grouping students by date of manufacture, which the flipped classroom is ideally suited for. Are they ready to let students move at a pace that meets their developmental readiness? True flipping should include a careful redesign of learning environment, but this is often overlooked.
5.    Lecturing doesn't = Learning... The flipped classroom is built on a traditional model of teaching and learning.  I lecture - you intake.  While this method of teaching works for some learners, many others thrive with a model that takes a more constructivist approach.
Finally, an Editorial by the New York Times,
This article lists two key reasons why online courses do not work as well as traditional classes:
1. Student attrition rates — around 90 percent for some huge online courses — appear to be a problem even in small-scale online courses when compared with traditional face-to-face classes.
2. Lack of direct instruction - courses delivered solely online may be fine for highly skilled, highly motivated people, but they are inappropriate for struggling students who make up a significant portion of college enrollment and who need close contact with instructors to succeed.
"Many students, for example, show up at college (or junior college) unprepared to learn, unable to manage time and having failed to master basics like math and English."

"Lacking confidence as well as competence, these students need engagement with their teachers to feel comfortable and to succeed. What they often get online is estrangement from the instructor who rarely can get to know them directly."

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