Collaborative Communities in eLearning: Module 5 Reflections

'H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) Seal of Approval' photo (c) 2009, Michele M. F. - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

In what ways will the 70/30 rule impact your online facilitation?

I think the 70/30 rule will apply to my blended instruction context, but in quite different ways than with fully online classes.  I have found that online discussions that I have tried to run with my students in the past have been serviceable, yet, I found them to be lacking a sense of true engagement.  One of my aha moments this week has been to realize that I haven’t done enough front-end loading with my online discussions.  We always do in-class ice breakers and a getting-to-know you activities at the beginning of a school year, but when I move my students’ discussions online, I have skipped the online ice breaker.  I’ve come to realize that, that has been a mistake. When introducing students to a new software application or a new concept, I always give them an opportunity to sandbox with the new application. Because, I think, I was thinking of online discussions as being more similar to in-class discussion than they really are (for the age-group that I teach, at least), they really do need a chance to play with the discussion interface and to have an opportunity to just do something fun with it to start, just to get a better feel for what it means to “converse” with others online. I think that I will have to build online discussion into the basic instructional design for my course so that online discussion takes place much more consistently.  At this time, there are places in our project-based course where students are in online discussions regularly, then stretches of time where they are not in any online discussions at all.  It will help, I think, to make it a more consistent presence throughout the course.

Other triumphs or challenges?

I have been pretty sick and have not been to school all week.  Realistically, had this course been a face-to-face class, I would have quite legitimately skipped attending classes this week.  In an online world, however, I could still fire up my laptop and “attend” class.  I hate that.  I hate working when I am sick.  Without a doubt, I am a HORRIBLE sick person.  Believe me, when I say, you NEVER, EVER want to have to care for me if I have a cold or worse, the flu!!!  As a policy, I refuse to be one of those teachers who emails assignments home for kids to do when they are sick.  Long absences are, of course, handled appropriately, but my general rule is to let the kid be sick and when he or she is better and back in school, we’ll get it figured out.  This week made me realize that the flip side is true for online instructors as well.  They never really have the option of calling in sick.  I don’t know that I like that very much at all!

What could have been done to mitigate those challenges?

Not much. Get a flu shot, for sure!!! The flu this season is pretty horrid.  Wash your hands often and avoid touching your face as much as possible!  LOL!

Other reflective thoughts …

The final thing that I found to be quite a surprise is how different the experience of teaching adults must be!  I would not have guessed in a million years that adult learners would actually show up in a course saying and doing the kinds of things I read about in this week’s discussions!  Mind boggling, really!  I really made me take a step back and evaluate the kinds of things that we are doing in K-12 education that are considered “best practice” (at least within institutions at which I have worked) and looking at how they manifest themselves as eventual adult learners.  Within my personal sphere of influence and in my current school culture, I know that there is a progression of expectation for what is expected of an entering 7th grader relative to what is expected of an exiting 9th grader, but the things I heard this week made me realize that there really does need to be more dialog with folk in higher ed and beyond.  My matriculating senior is your newbie adult learner …

I’ve been thinking about how to make sure your discussions as a learning activity, actually address the learning objectives that you set out when you form your prompt.  Our discussions for each module have a specific theme: “Dealing with a difficult student …” for example.  However, some of our richest conversations in the discussions are ones that, seemingly, drift far off the mark set by the stated themes of the modules.  They are usually still relevant to the course as a whole, but they’re pretty far off the mark for a particular module topic.  How do you assess the learning when the content is moving all over the place?

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