Online Community

“…. the challenge is to provide access to higher learning, determining what the learner brings to the environment, and what they need in terms of support…Therefore, we must ask questions about the learner’s readiness for online learning, access to and familiarity with the technology required, proficiency in the language of instruction, individual learning style, and educational goals, as well as about how aspects of the individual’s culture can affect learning. These are some of the things that we need to understand about the learners; they are also things that the learners need to know about themselves in order to benefit from the learning experience.”

Judith Hughes’ chapter on online learning captured the necessary exchange of information that needs to happen between the learner, institution, instructor, and advisor – theses individuals all make up a community of learning. Online learning and support services work well if those critical people are constantly communicating with one another. It’s not enough for an advisor to know a student’s learning style and recommend strategies for success, but students need to have a good sense of self-awareness and maturity in order to diagnose learning needs and be in control of the learning process. I was reminded about andragogy principles when reading this chapter. My module is targeting 18/19 year old college freshmen. I would argue that most 18 year olds struggle to diagnose their learning needs. I think part of the issue is the difference between teaching in high school compared to college (which is related to the SRL article last week). Suddenly college freshmen find themselves in an environment where professors often won’t send out study guides, reminders, provide written/verbal feedback, etc. I think creating community is essential and online learning (if done right) is poised to provide critical support, resources, and tools to help individuals learn more about themselves and the institution overall.

In my module, I want to address learner readiness/needs through an online post & pre test. Hughes notes that “This type of online resource assists potential learners to determine if they have the necessary hardware and networking capabilities, and should help them to explore whether this learning environment is comfortable.” The results are discussed only between the instructor and student. However, students will have the opportunity to engage with one another in other lessons. I want students to present helpful information and suggestions as they learn new skills that will assist with hybrid/online learning. I plan to pair my students into blog buddies of 3 or 4. I’ll also facilitate student access by encouraging them to exchange their cell phone numbers & emails at the beginning – this way if they want to have a synchronous, real time discussion about an assignment, they can.  The most important part of my module will be guiding them through self-regulated learning principles necessary for college success. The learning community – myself, students, tech assistance, campus resources – all serve to support the student through the self-discovery process. The module is an individualized learning activity with a community of support.

The feeling of community as it relates to this course is important to me – mainly the instructor feedback to be honest. I blogged about the importance of teacher presence earlier in the semester, and I think the instructors have done an excellent job in providing timely feedback about our assignments and learning processes. I wish I had more time to read and respond to each blog post from my peers, but I don’t. I have actually surprised myself by enjoying the reading of my classmates tweets. Here is where I think a short sentence about a learning experience is faster for me to read, absorb, and comment versus a blog response. I never thought I’d enjoy reading tweets, so I appreciate that part about this class! It’s stretched me in good ways.

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8 thoughts on “Online Community

  1. Your learners are similar to mine in that they are both students of higher education. I am working with graduate students while you are working with undergraduate students. They are both striving to have a better understanding of themselves so that they may achieve more academically or career wise. Grad students and undergraduate students still make friends with their fellow classmates and maintain a sense of community through the formation of study groups or other campus clubs. They both have to go to class, do the work and learn the discipline.

    I think graduate students are however more confident in their abilities than undergraduate students. I think graduate students already know how to navigate their learning environment whereas new freshmen might not be able to do so easily. Graduate students tend to be more mature both personally and professionally than their undergraduate peers. There is a general expectation that graduate students will be mature self-starters that make a lot more decisions independently about course choices or how to structure their studies. Graduate students are held to a higher caliber than undergraduate students. Graduate students have more autonomy and less guidance. Graduate students may also tend to gravitate towards their department, bypassing the campus community and surrounding activities.

    We are both addressing learner needs through assessments. I am having the graduate students take assessments in career interests, life values and strengths finder as a way to help them discover what careers might be good for them. It will also foster a sense of self-awareness so they understand themselves better and are able to make career decisions. It appears that you are also doing assessments with a pre and post test to help assess learner readiness. The learner will have a better understanding of their learning needs and themselves. The results of the assessment is confidential as is the case for the graduate students. However I am requiring that the graduate students reflect about what they have learned about themselves and how they think it might help them in the future. You are having them discuss new study skills that they have learned which is similar as well.

    Most of the communication in my class is through asynchronous discussion. I am expecting the students to work independently and am not having blog buddies as in your class. I think this is more of a need with undergraduate students. I don’t see the need for synchronous discussion in my class as in yours for the same reason. I thought this was a really good post and made me think about the similarities and differences between the two and why they were that way,

  2. Are you going to continue to develop and use this module once this course is over? Just wondering if it makes sense to hook you up with Bri who is developing similiar stuff for a study in the fall. I know we have briefly thought about this, but if you are doing this module for real, it is probably time to bring you into what we are doing (if you want)

    • Yes, my goal is to eventually use this – perhaps for credit as a UNIV 291 module next spring or fall 2017 (it may not be ready to go live this fall ;). I went to the ALT lab this week and spoke with someone who is working with Bri on the MASC 101 success module. Her research sounds really interesting, so I’ll be curious to see the results!

  3. “I have actually surprised myself by enjoying the reading of my classmates tweets. Here is where I think a short sentence about a learning experience is faster for me to read, absorb, and comment versus a blog response. I never thought I’d enjoy reading tweets, so I appreciate that part about this class! ”

    Me too! In the beginning I was incredibly overwhelmed by tweeting – and I think it was because I had followed a ton of people from my previous job because that was what was expected in the music industry. I had so many tweets coming through my feed I didn’t know who or what to follow. So, I had to pare down my feed by un-following a lot of people (sorry!), and at that point it became much more enjoyable and relevant to this course.

    I think that this might be an important thing for us to remember to mention to our students (not necessarily in our modules) – that you can have too much of a good thing in social media. If your classes have a social media component, you may need to edit or revise your social media habits as well to be successful there.

  4. Yes Yes Yes Mary!! One of the greatest misconceptions I have encountered as I transition from 15 years of teaching high school to teaching college is the idea that high school students are taught study skills (and many of the SRL habits you all read about last week) when that is simple not the case. Given the pressures of standardized testing as well as the pressure to teach the basics to high school students (things that years ago were taught in the home), study skills often is pushed aside for other, more pressing, and better quantitatively measured material. That being said, I totally agree, many of those students lack the ability to diagnose what might be going wrong in their studies.

    I like your module set-up, and would love to talk to you, though what I am working on is a little less community oriented for students. However, I do want to ask, what pre/post test are you using for this module?

    • Thanks, Bri. I actually went to the ALT lab this week to work on my rampages site and ran into a guy you are working with on the MASC 101 success module. I am really interested to see your results! I will plan to craft the pre/post test this week. It’ll probably be a combo of an existing one (google doc format) and the one you sent me. I want to ask the same questions at the beginning and end to measure growth. When it’s loaded on the site, then you can see it!

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