The Impact of Online Environment
In an article published in 1987, Arthur Chickering, a professor at Memphis State University, concluded that good teaching and learning should be based on seven principles:
encourages contact between students and faculty, develops reciprocity and cooperation among students, encourages active learning, gives prompt feedback, emphasizes time on task, communicates high expectations, and respects diverse talents and ways of learning.
Each principle can stand on its own but the power of all seven principles together employ six important forces in education: activity, expectations, cooperation, interaction, diversity and responsibility. Critics of today’s online environment are quick to point out that use of technology instead of enriching the learning experience is, in fact hurting the cooperation and interaction of students with the content, with their peers and with the virtual instructor. This might have been true in the 1990’s with the “read-only web” (Berners-Lee) whose goal was to present information only. We live now in the web 2.0 era, or the “read – write” web that welcomes responses, contributing content and interaction from its users. YouTube for example, relies exclusively on user submission and it offers a space for interaction through comments. Blogs, wiki spaces, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn they all provide the 2-way interaction. Web 2.0 made it easy for every user to create their own personal learning environment. With technology continuing to innovate and web 3.0, in its infancy, web 4.0 and 5.0 on their way, it is easy to mistakenly think that the best online education can be achieved only by using the newest technology when in fact all tools, newer or older can be used successfully to support online learning when used intentionally.
What has been your experience with this topic? It took me a very short time to fully embrace social media. It was the ease with which I could communicate and keep in touch with friends and relatives from across the ocean. Twitter provided that easy access to people in circles I could have never access or it would have taken me years. With Twitter news finds you, with the minimum of effort. Pinterest has been a favourite of mine for the longest time. Users can “pin” their favourite images to keep for later reference or to share with other users. A newer feature is the ability to create communities for sharing inspiration, getting advice and just engaging in conversation on a shared topic of interest.
What are your “aha” moments related to this topic? The online environment is so much more versatile than we give it credit. Technology is providing us with a wealth of tools that can be successfully used to increase student – student collaboration, student- instructor interaction and student – content engagement. The more opportunities for student engagement in the online environment, the more stimulating the learning and the more positive the experience. As long as the tool is chosen intentionally, to support a specific learning outcome and is a match to the student’s learning style, it will enable the learner to take the driver’s seat and start to build his own learning network and learning environment. Blogs and wikis, YouTube and Facebook, Twitter and Flicker, Google Docs and Prezi, Pinterest and Easel.ly, encourage collaboration, are interactive, support student generated content, and enable the students to take responsibility for their learning while developing their own network of learning.
How can this new learning be applied in your online course?
After spending a bit of time to understand the applications, with a bit of creativity and courage, great content can be developed. Soft Skills for Skilled Newcomers is a workshop that is very much needed but because the concepts are rooted in cultural values, they are quite difficult to understand especially in the online environment. I could incorporate blogging first for self-reflection on values and customs back at home. I will encourage my students to create a wiki page describing the business culture of their country around self-confidence and job interviews. Pinterest could be a great place to pin resources in a personal and/or group board. A newer feature is the ability to create or join a community that shares the same topic of interest. Sharing ideas, experiences, “a-ha” moments could move newcomers easier to the last stage of learning: unconscious competence. Powtoon and Video Scribe could be excellent tools for presentations on different topics around soft skills.
- Using Online Social Media to Support Preservice Student Engagement, C Rutherford, December 2010, Merlot Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, Vol 6
- Chickering, A. W. and Ehrman, S.C. (1996). Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever. AAHE Bulletin, Oct. p. 3-6.
- Cercone, K. (2008). Characteristics of Adult Learners with Implications for Online Learning Design. AACE Journal, 16(2), 137-159. Chesapeake, VA: AACE. Retrieved from http://www.editlib.org/p/24286.
- Web 1.0 vs Web 2.0 vs Web 3.0 vs Web 4.0 vs Web 5.0 – A bird’s eye on the evolution and definition, retrieved from https://flatworldbusiness.wordpress.com/flat-education/previously/web-1-0-vs-web-2-0-vs-web-3-0-a-bird-eye-on-the-definition/
- Basic Definitions: Web 1.0, Web. 2.0, Web 3.0, Brian Getting, April 18, 2007, Practical eCommerce https://www.practicalecommerce.com/Basic-Definitions-Web-1-0-Web-2-0-Web-3-0
- Engaging the Online Learner, R. Conrad and J. Donaldson, 2011, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Journal 1 – Pedagogy of Online Learning
What have you learned about this topic? Adult learners show an increasing preference for online education. The flexibility that these courses offer to very busy professionals is definitely one of the important reasons they are attracted to this form of education. Instructors and educators have been trying to design courses that meet the requirements and needs of the adult learner, to increase their engagement and success as key factors in the course assessment and future of online education. In the early 1920’s adult education became an independent field with the Carnegie Corporation leading the way and starting to take an interest in the differences in learning characteristics between children and adults. Decades later, in 1980, Malcolm Knowles publishes his book The Modern Practice of Adult Education: From Pedagogy to Andragogy, in which he laid the foundations of adult education and identified the particular needs of adults. Knowles suggested 4 principles to be applied when designing education: adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction, adults learn through doing even when they make mistakes, adults are most interested in learning that has an immediate impact on their job or personal life, and adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented. There are other theories related to andragogy, each providing a different attempt to better understand the characteristics of adult learners and empower instructors to design more effective and more engaging courses. The common idea for all these theories emphasizes the fact that each adult learner comes with unique past experiences, history, culture, education and educational background, personality, ethnicity, lifestyle, occupation and skills, just to name a few characteristics. Technology and globalization have opened online education to more than just a local group of learners. The diversity of learners has challenged instructors to better study cultural differences and similarities, and to create different activities and use different strategies, tools and applications in order to engage students in active learning while considering different learning styles. To provide the best digital content, instructors need to understand their students’ media preferences, then choose the channels that work best to distribute the concepts and shape each activity to suit the adult learners’ identity, voice and tone.
The basis for development and improvement is emerging and the interest from adult learners around the world is on the rise, but is online learning embraced and supported by faculty as a quality alternative to face to face instruction?
“The proportion of college instructors who are teaching online and blended courses is growing. So is their support for using technology to deliver instruction. But their belief in the quality and effectiveness of online courses and digital technology isn’t keeping pace.” Those are among the findings of Inside Higher Ed’s 2018 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology, published October 2018. Other findings of the survey showed that there is not much change in the instructors’ belief that online education is less effective than face to face in reaching “at-risk” students, maintaining academic integrity and engaging students in course material.
With only 12% of the surveyed instructors declaring that they are “disinclined to use technology”, it looks like a good percentage has moved towards adopting new technology. And yet, more than half of the respondents believe that digital tools cannot bring down instructional costs without impairing quality.
The survey seems to confirm yet again that although faculty understand the benefits of using technology they continue to be resistant to online education citing quality of instruction. The data of the same survey also indicates that professors that delivered an online course agree with the statement that “for-credit online courses can achieve student learning outcomes at least equivalent to those of in-person courses at any institution.” Only 25% of those worked with an instructional designer. “Instructors who had worked with instructional designers overwhelmingly appreciated the experience, with 37 percent describing it as “very positive” and 56 percent as “positive.” More than two-thirds agreed that the designers had helped them “understand the available educational technology tools” and integrate them into their courses (75 percent), that designers “improved the quality” of their courses (70 percent) and that they “shared helpful tips and effective practices for fostering student engagement” (70 percent)
What has been your experience with this topic? I am a digital immigrant that has to work a bit harder to understand new technology but I use Twitter for networking, Pinterest for resource gathering, Infographics to get a faster understanding of concepts, YouTube to seek clarification, blogging for self-reflection and I am still to find use for GIFs. As an instructor I have used YouTube and Infographics, explained the benefits of technology and applications and I am eagerly learning any new educational technology. As an online student I had experienced both: a great course as well as a very disappointing one. I see the benefits of a cost-effective online education fitting my schedule, my learning style and needs but I do wonder about quality because of bad experiences and because of way too large selection of courses out there. All universities and colleges offer quite a number of courses online with most of them from the Continuing Education department.
What are your “aha” moments related to this topic?
In the last few decades since infotech has basically exploded, every aspect of our lives has been disrupted in a way or another. Up until the Internet, every development was championed by professionals of a particular field but nowadays engineers and scientists are the ones inventing or creating new technology and expecting everybody to use it and adapt it to their needs. Engineers at Apple have changed the way we listen to music, we use technology for daily tasks or to facilitate learning in classrooms. Professors in Universities and colleges need time to understand its functionality and applicability, time to learn and time to adapt it to their ultimate goal: to deliver high quality instruction and form new generations of professionals. It is a tough task as now the need for technology, applications, mobility and flexibility is asking for a complete revision of a professor job description to include instructional design and moderate to advanced technical knowledge. Online education is here to stay and universities and colleges will have to start taking serious steps in ensuring the quality of the courses they offer as the need is on the rise. Providing more professional development opportunities for instructors and/or hiring tech savvy instructional designers versed in online pedagogy would be a good step towards shifting attitudes especially of faculty.
How can this new learning be applied in your online course?
Some of the practical things I will try to accomplish:
- I will continue to read research and better understand the process of learning in adults. Only by understanding the learning process instructors can design engaging online courses that will adapt to the biological, cultural and social changes influencing adult learners.
- Adult learners don’t have time, patience or use for the face to face content-and instructor centered approach. The courses designed will be student-centered with meaningful learning experiences.
- I will promote online education and be a spokesperson for more research and a unified effort from universities and colleges to invest in quality online education. In assessing quality, employers should have a say as well, as after all, it is their businesses that will benefit from all the new knowledge acquired by their employees.
- Conflicted Views of Technology: A Survey of Faculty Attitudes, Doug Lederman, October 21, 2018, InsideHigherEd.com; https://www.insidehighered.com/news/survey/conflicted-views-technology-survey-faculty-attitudes
- Professor, Please Meet Your Instructional Designer, Doug Lederman, October 21, 2018; InsideHigherEd.com; https://www.insidehighered.com/digitallearning/article/2018/10/31/survey-professors-shows-surprising-lack-awareness-instructional
- Managing Technology in Higher Education: Strategies for Transforming Teaching and Learning, A. Bates and A. Sangra, 2010 San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
- Characteristics of Adult Learners with Implications for Online Learning Design, K. Cercone, 2008, AACE Journal, 16(2), 137-159