Convenient Interactions…

Learning in an online environment has for me thus far been both a positive and negative experience.  One benefit has been the flexibility in scheduling my learning around personal and professional commitments.  This level of convenience has been described as “…the obvious advantage of asynchronous learning.” (Ge, 2012).   Hrastinski, (as cited in Murphy et al, 2011, p. 585) discusses how asynchronous interactions promote more complex and reflective cognitive practices than synchronous interactions.  As challenging as I sometimes find the required posting assignments in my predominantly asynchronous learning environment, I would tend to agree with these findings.  My thinking would likely not be as in-depth if I were participating in a face-to-face setting that is more constrained by time.

As Ge (2012) noted, asynchronous learning environments have been found to involve less opportunity or interest for interactions, and can result in feelings of isolation for students.  While my courses have required significant text-based interactions, I have certainly experienced such feelings of disengagement and isolation.  The opportunity to meet many of my classmates previously in a face-to-face setting certainly helped, but for me there is still an element of camaraderie missing from this environment.

Regardless of my opinions toward online learning, I believe that these methods of delivering instruction will only continue to expand.   One of the recommendations outlined in the Alberta Government’s Inspiring Education discussion paper was “Personalized learning with flexible timing and pacing through a range of learning environments”. (p.14).    This most certainly speaks to the nature of online learning environments.   Whether an asynchronous, synchronous or blended approach is used, I agree with Murphy et al (2011), who stress that teachers working in online settings need to be well grounded in pedagogy that promotes interaction.  Learning environments must be structured so that “.. students contribute to diverse learning communities in which the social component of learning and the development and sharing of knowledge is central to their educational experience.” (Government of Alberta, 2010, p. 14)

Alberta Education. (2010). Inspiring Action on Education: Discussion Paper. Government of Alberta.  Retrieved from http://ideas.education.alberta.ca/media/2905/inspiringaction%20eng.pdf
Ge, Z-G (2012). Cyber Asynchronous versus Blended Cyber Approach in Distance English Learning. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 15(2), 286-297.
Murphy, E., Rodríguez-Manzanares, M. A., & Barbour, M. (2011). Asynchronous and synchronous online teaching: Perspectives of Canadian high school distance education teachers. British Journal Of Educational Technology, 42(4), 583-591.
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2 Responses to Convenient Interactions…

  1. The flexibility offered by an asynchronous environment is one of its distinct advantages. “The time-independent AOT facilitates form of learning whereby students can stop and start at different times and proceed at their own pace.” (p. 587, Murphy, Rodriquez-Manzanares & Barbour, 2011) As in your case, I am able to participate in this course because of its asynchronous design. Being able to further my learning is contingent on working around my work schedule and family.

    One of the questions I have is in regards to the Alberta Distance Education website page, “Is Distance Learning For You?”. It states students require time management, self-discipline and resourcefulness skills. I believe everyone is capable of learning these skills, but what if a student does not have those skills in place at the time of the course? On the “How It Works” page it states, “Students are successful in distance education courses when they are self-motivated, organized, and work well independently.” (Alberta Education, 2012) We obviously have these skills in place as evidenced by the successful completion of previous courses. I’m wondering if one answer is the social component you mention in your post. If students are able to connect as peers in a class and make online social connections, would they also provide the support and motivation to keep up with their work and be engaged?

    References

    Alberta Education (2012). Alberta’s distributed learning strategy. Retrieved from: http://education.alberta.ca/department/ipr/archive/adl-strategy.aspx

    Murphy, E., Rodríguez-Manzanares, M. A., & Barbour, M. (2011). Asynchronous and synchronous online teaching: Perspectives of Canadian high school distance education teachers. British Journal Of Educational Technology, 42(4), 583-591.

  2. kelasher says:

    Hi Debbie,
    Your questioning of who is ideally suited for online learning seems quite valid. Not all learners (myself at times included) find this form of learning to be motivating or in alignment with their individual needs. I do think that connecting with peers in a f2f class and also develop social connections online would increase motivation, engagement and provide support for students.
    I was recently searching for a video for an upcoming assignment and came across a clip in which a class full of students were using a social media tool to create, post and respond to each others projects. (BullisSchool, 2009). At one point, the students were all sitting in the same room, interacting online to another person not more than ten feet away. The teacher called it a “virtual salon”. (BullisSchool, 2009). While connecting with peers simultaneously in both a face to face environment as well as online was not the intended message of the video, I was struck by how this arrangement would have offered support for the students. If they needed to get clarification or support, they could access the teacher or a peer in real time, with full interaction available. This is reminiscent of some professional development workshops that I have attended which offered a similar mix of online exploration and face to face interactions with other participants, where the instructor could guide and help to troubleshoot any issues or problems. Perhaps future classrooms may offer a similar type of mixed setting for at least some of the sessions of an online learning experience.

    BullisSchool. (2009, December 3). Using Facebook to teach (video file). Retrieved from
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Vj-XCUIbbcE

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