08 July 2009

Challenges for Online Education

Yesterday I was reading about a new initiative in the U.S. to fund open learning university programs online. A comment written in response to the article caught my attention:
I find my IN classroom experiences are always better. Personal interaction and engaging the energy of the instructor is irreplaceable still for me. (comment #1)
Paradox exists to provide students in the Williams Lake area who are taking online courses with essential features of classroom instruction mentioned here, namely personal interaction and instructional energy. This same respondent goes on to mention:
As a student, when I cannot reach an instructor in a virtual environment when I do not understand a concept, I get 'trapped' in my own frustrations of wrapping my head around something I do not understand and bear the learning curve until I get an email response (comment #3)
Note that frustration is a big element in the experience of some online learners, especially when it is identified as frustration that would not be experience in a classroom setting. This student concludes by proposing hybrid course delivery:
I personally find it best to have a blended teaching environment so when I am studying on my own I can reach my instructor for that critical teachable moment. (comment #3)
Now it is quite true classrooms bring students into real-time contact with instructors, particularly in courses with relatively low student-per-class ratios. Nevertheless, such contact does not necessarily promise immediate accessibility of instructors when students are studying on their own. Clearly, though there is a real experience component of classroom education that at least some students find essential to the formation of their own education. Thus, it may not be possible for such students to experience an online learning community in the full way they expect their classroom learning communities to function.

I don't want to be too quick to jettison the notion of a real and vibrant online learning community experience, and I remain open to that as a possibility, but I am also aware that the sort of face-to-face experience Paradox offers students may continue to be a significant need for students who want to get an education in Williams Lake and whose schedules require them to take courses online to do so. So, while I continue to learn online tools for creating and sustaining learning communities, I also anticipate that students will require real-time gathering places in the Williams Lake area. Both aspects of learning communities will continue to be developed at Paradox.

1 comment:

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