The topic of online learning is one that is fairly near and dear to my heart. As a mother of two small kids, there is nothing I love more then organizing childcare for an hour and a half while I zip downstairs to my basement to attend class, rather then organizing childcare for 3 or more hours while I drive to the university to attend face-to-face class.
Although I am a huge online learning fan, it comes with little experience. Before taking EC&I 833, I had never used Zoom nor had I ever created a blog. Both of these online learning tools have proven extremely useful to me in my studies. I have really enjoyed exploring Zoom to attend class each week and can see myself trying to use this online tool in the future with adult learners, high school students or meetings with colleagues. The use of break out rooms in Zoom creates a great forum for small group discussions while the large group format is great for facilitating information. I am anxious to use Zoom for my class presentation in just two short weeks. Demonstrating my learning through the use of a blog has also been extremely useful to me. After getting over the vulnerability factor of putting your thoughts and opinions “out there” for your entire class and professor to read, I began to enjoy linking my classmates information to my own. Perhaps a little embarrassed to admit, I also figured out to “hyperlink” through the use of blog. After a quick text message to my helpful classmate, Channing, she was able to help me figure out this technology skill. Something as simple as learning how to hyperlink made me feel totally accomplished as an online learner (small gains, people, small gains).
The use of Twitter also seems like an effective and relevant online teaching tool. However, it would be essential for all learners to be actively using their accounts in order to ensure that posts, readings or comments were all being viewed by students. As such, Twitter seems like a great means to ask questions to a group of students but as an instructor, you can’t guarantee all students are going to participate. Also, some learners may feel uncomfortable to answer posed questions on such a public forum. For example, questions on Twitter that have been posed by EC&I students for presentation purposes seem appropriate. These are questions such as inquiries into peoples experience with assessment or technology use. However, an instructor would have to be very careful of incorporating questions regarding personal matters such as religion or politics. These types of topics may be best suited for more private forums like Zoom rather then on a such a public forum like Twitter.
When asked the question, “How would you feel about teaching with these tools in an online or distance education class?” I consider my experiences in taking an online education class. In my opinion, one won’t feel confident or have the chance to be successful, until you try. A couple of weeks ago, my classmate, Collette, talked about always encouraging her students to take risks. This applies to adult learners and teachers, as well. One won’t feel comfortable teaching with online tools that promote distance learning, until you utilize and practice with them. I can relate to the concept of taking risks when considering my 10th and final class in my masters program. Like my classmate, Kyla, I am also motivated to take EC&I 834 to gain insight and education on the topic of designing online and blended learning environments. Have I ever designed an online course? No. Will I be successful at it? I will only know if I take a risk; if I try.
Considering the idea of learning how to create and facilitate an online course, I think of the types of students that would benefit so much from this type of structure. As I tweeted this past week, “Online education can be far more effective then f2f when considering barriers such as distance, personal issues or family situations. For example, a f2f classroom leaves little room for the nursing mother or those struggling with social anxieties.” This week’s reading addresses these types of learners; those with disabilities, handicaps or sicknesses. Subrahmanyam and Ravichandran (2013) state, “There are many students that are unable to go to a traditional school setting because they cannot get around easily or a low immune system and get sick from other students. Distance education can help in these cases because the students will not have to leave their home or be around other people. It makes it possible for these students to still learn and to be able to get a good education (p. 6).” I think that when considering the benefits of online learning for students who face barriers in face to face learning settings, it is hard not to imagine yourself, as a teacher, doing one’s best to learn and facilitate an effective online learning opportunity.