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Online? Face-to-Face? Or Blended?

AN ONLINE CLASS

We met online last week for some forty minutes. What did you think? Compared to our first two classes, was it necessary last week to come sit in class in a brick and mortal building listening to the professor? Or was it just as easy to perform your assignments at home?

THE FUTURE IS...

The trends in education seems to be one of increasingly "online" and "blended" classes, and some analysts claim that some fifty percent of all classes will be online ones by the next decade. Is this, in your opinion, a positive or a negative trend? Or both!?! Please read these essays and explore the links below:

and then think about your own experience with online classes. Was it a good educational experience? Bad? Both maybe? Why? EXPLAIN! Please write up in some 600 words your experiences and opinions so far with online learning. In addition to as a student, please reflect on how you would like/dislike to teach an online class?

Please write up your responses to the relatively new phenomenon of online learning by our next class session on May 16, 2011.

GOOD? BAD? BOTH?

Comments

Research tells us that about fifty percent of students will be learning via online classes. Instead of having students learn in a classroom setting with face-to-face interaction, students will be sitting at home (or anywhere they would like to be) and learning. With this new inventive way of learning, there comes positive and negative opinions towards it.

In my opinion, having online classes are an excellent way to teach students. I am entertained by the idea of being able to sit in my pajamas and teach a lesson in my recliner at home someday. But when I seriously consider the idea, I do see some issues that could arise. For example, although online classes are convenient, there really is no face to face connection with that person other than through the computer. Additionally, one can only wonder what our students are doing during an online lecture. Are they on facebook? Are they chatting with another classmate on Skype? The only real way to know is to change the way we teach in a 21st century teaching method.

I personally have taken online classes in the past. I have thoroughly enjoyed them and learned so much through them. But there were some drawbacks in taking online classes. The one thing that bothered me the most was not being able to personally know (and see) my professors and classmates. I felt alone in the class. Most of my online classes were writing discussions on the class website. I never heard anyone’s voice, saw anyone’s face, or drove anywhere specific for class. There was no set time or day of the week that everyone would meet, only due dates. I became torn as to whether or not this was enjoyable.

At first I didn’t enjoy it as much. Now, I see that it can be very convenient and enjoyable at times. I can go on vacation and still be at class. I can have my online class at Starbucks or Grandmas house if I choose. I can even go to my online class when I am under the whether. Not much holds me back from going to class when it is online.

If I had the option of teaching an online class, I wouldn’t turn it down. I truly believe that online classes can be an efficient and effective way to teach in the 21st century. I believe that online classes can provide a lot that regular classes cannot and vice versa. Therefore, I believe that the best education a student could get is at a school that provides both online classes and regular classroom setting classes because both class types bring different benefits to the student.

I graduated from UCSB in 2005 with no experience in online education courses. I never had an opportunity to take an online course because in my first two years of college, I spent most of my time in the chemistry labs working on experiments. When I came to APU, I was introduced to the ecompanion shell and one online course. The online course laid out all of the instructions for every assignment that we needed to turn in. The only downside was that there were not too many examples of what was expected of the assignments. Other than how long to paper should be for each assignment. The weekly threaded discussions allowed for further insight to the topic of discussion, but it seemed that the responses that were given were half heartedly jotted down. I felt like I was flying blind throughout the course because there was not that much guidance. The professor made it a point to respond to our threaded discussions, but that seemed to be the only form of communication from her. It may have been that I did not try to reach out to her for assistance and tried to complete all activities on my own.

This is where I think the problem lies with online education. Communication between the teacher and students is difficult. To truly have an effective online class it is important to remember to keep constant communication with students because there is no face to face time. As compared to our first two classes, Professor Geib was able to field questions from us students and helped clarify the curriculum. We were able to grasp more of the concepts and the necessary output on all assignments to receive successful grades. There were also great discussions that engaged all students and helped propel ideas back and forth. As compared to the online course in week 3 which was all done on Skype. I felt that we didn’t need to meet in class because for most of the students it was not difficult to create a voice thread and post it on our Wiki pages. For a student that may not be as familiar with technology might have found that class to be more difficult. They may have preferred to have a face to face brick and mortar class to have their questions answered. The next problem that I feel may have happened was that students got lost in the discussion. It seemed that roughly two to three students ran the discussion while others waited to get their opinion in before the topic was changed. This may cause students to become disengaged in the activity. I know when I was ready to give my two cents about the topic, it was too late and another person had jumped in and then we changed the topic. I understand that the trend in education seems to be increasingly online and there are claims out there that in ten years fifty percent of all classes will be online. With this in mind, I think it is important to create a blended classroom that incorporates both online classes and face to face interaction.

When reading articles about online classes, I couldn’t help but notice that there was an overwhelming bias that online classrooms are just a way to save money. Administrators have argued that online courses in K-12 classrooms can give students the skills they’ll need in college and the workplace. Teachers and unions still believe that this may be driven strictly by a desire to spend less on teachers especially when the state is forcing deep budget cuts in education. I am on the fence with this topic because it can certainly be a positive trend for students, but a negative trend for teachers. I believe that more teachers will lose their jobs as online courses expand. The student teacher ratios will grow to 100 or 200 to 1. This will be extremely cost-effective for districts. On the other side incorporating online classes or blended classes will provide an enriched classroom for students. They will be better prepared for college and the workplace. This trend is just like we saw in the automobile industry. Automated robots began to replace good hard workers on the assembly line. It is just the nature of the beast with technological advancements comes some job losses. I don’t think the educational industry will be as drastic. I believe that the educational system needs to adopt a blended class structure.

I feel created the right mix of a blended classroom. They tend to incorporate face to face interaction, synchronous conversations, asynchronous interactions, which all leads to a strong online learning environment. The Kahn Academy is designed to have the students complete a custom self paced learning tool (curriculum). The students view online videos about various contents and go at their own pace. They complete the necessary activities required to go to the next step in the process. The role of the teacher changes dramatically and rather than focusing all of our time to explicit direct instruction we have more time for face to face interaction. The Kahn Academy program needs to be adopted in the classroom because the more face to face interaction time a teacher has with a student their ability grows larger to grasp a topic. The teacher will have more time to engage all of their students and focus on the problems that they are experiences. A teacher can monitor any of their students and chart their progress. They can see how long it is taking each student to complete the sections of learning. Also, theKahnAcademy’s library is extensive and can be accessed at any time. If students have any issues outside of class they can access the video to comprehend the concepts that are being discussed in class. This is the best example so far that I have come across that can create an effective learning environment through a blended classroom.

My only experience with on-line classes has been through Azusa Pacific University (APU). Being a non-traditional student and having the obligation of two different jobs to go to, I found that the flexibility APU offers in terms of on-line learning was a perfect fit for a student like me. Aside from the economic and time saving advantages that on-line learning offers both the student and the university, this relatively new way of teaching and learning, I would say, is most successful when the student is self-determined and motivated to learn and collaborate with his or her fellow students. Out of the three on-line courses I have taken here at APU, two were challenging and intriguing at the same time and one was simply not engaging at all.
First of all, the two on-line courses I learned a lot from were taught by an instructor that was very dedicated to making sure everyone knew exactly what was expected of them in terms of academic papers and field work assignments. Instructions were always clear, grading rubrics were available, and examples were often offered throughout the course. In addition, class participation was determined by the type of response each student gave several times a week pertaining to a specific set of questions posed by the instructor relating to articles, text book chapters, and/or videos as it pertained to special education. Also, I found that the notion of having my work displayed for the entire class to read on a weekly basis made me feel more accountable for my words and thoughts, thus, pushing me to further develop my ideas. Gary S. Stager writes in “The Possibilities of Online Learning” “[w]hen work is public, peers learn from it and support reciprocal growth. Everyone is a teacher and learner all of the time”. I really appreciated the timely manner in which the instructor graded assignments because it helped determined what direction I needed to take for the next assignment. Although I never once met any of my peers, or instructor for that matter, I truly felt a sense of collaboration and community within the confines of this on-line course(s).
In contrast, the other on-line class that I did not get much satisfaction from was almost the complete opposite of my first experience. In other words, assignment directions were often erroneous and many times articles that needed to be read and responded to by a certain day of the week were either not available or were simply not the right one. I understand that there is always a possibility for mistakes, but what made this course extremely frustrating was the fact that the instructor either did not respond to much needed clarification, or the response came way too late. I found myself playing the guessing game for much of the nine week course.
I believe that on-line learning is the way a lot of teaching/learning will be done in the near future. In order to create successful outcomes, the teacher needs to be fully committed in building a realistic and easy to follow website in which self-motivated and self-determined students can collaborate with each other.

When I first started college, I never thought that I would take a whole class online. Even though I knew online classes existed, I always opted to take my classes in the classroom with my fellow students around for moral support and a professor there to help me when I needed it. That was what made me the most comfortable. The thought of taking a class where I never would meet the other students in the class or the professor made me feel like I would be taking the class alone and that I would have to learn the information on my own. When given the option, I would always choose the route that avoided doing work online.

I knew going into college that I did not, under any circumstances, want to take longer than four years to finish school- even if I had to take summer school. Sure enough, I needed to take an online Child Development class, and in all honesty, I was not impressed. Often times I would get “stuck” on an assignment or would get confused as to where I was supposed to submit my papers and leave my comments. I would email the teacher, but she would take a while to respond. It was very stressful because I was always worried that my assignments were going to be late or that they were not going to make it to my professor. After that experience, I never had the desire to take more online classes.

Now that online classes are more prevalent (to the point where one can get a college degree entirely online), I am more open to what colleges have to offer online. This semester here at APU, I am taking a class online through Adobe Connect, and the technology is a lot more advanced than it was just a few years ago. Instead of having to email my professor with any questions or concerns about the class, we can talk to each other through our computer microphones. I can also talk to my classmates about our assignments. Although we do not see each other, I feel it is a lot more personal than emailing and waiting for a response. In terms of the EDUC 515 class we took online, I felt it was exactly what an online class should be like. Everyone was there to talk to each other, I could put a picture to everyone’s voice so I knew who I was talking to, the instructions were clear and concise, and it did not take seven hours! I also was able to have immediate feedback from the professor, which I feel is necessary in an online class.

After taking technology classes this semester and having more experience with working online, I have a most positive view of teaching and taking classes online. For me personally, since I my goal is to teach in the elementary level, I feel do online work will be very beneficial for my students. However, I do no foresee myself teaching full lessons online. Elementary students need that face-to-face instruction as they are learning the essentials. They need to be amongst other students in the flesh to help each other, ask questions, create that bond, and have those interactions with each other. This will help them on an academic level as well as on a social one. I think that there are certain online resource that are essential for elementary students, such as a class wiki or blog to refer back to for questions, videos, certain assignments; however, I do not feel comfortable with explaining a new concept online. I feel that elementary students should be physically in the classroom with the teacher and their fellow classmates when learning new material.

The trends in education seems to be one of increasingly “online” and “blended” classes, and some analysts claim that some fifty percent of all classes will be online ones by the next decade. Is this, in your opinion, a positive or a negative trend? Or both!?!and then think about your own experience with online classes. Was it a good educational experience? Bad? Both maybe? Why? EXPLAIN! Please write up in some 600 words your experiences and opinions so far with online learning. In addition to as a student, please reflect on how you would like/dislike to teach an online class?

What is the first thing people of our society do when they don’t know the answer to something? They don’t reach for a book. They use the internet. The internet is a vast resource of information. It is logical that the continuing trend in education is more and more online education. In my opinion, I think this is a great trend for adult students. However, I think that there is more to a elementary and secondary education than the core content that is lost when classes are taught strictly online. Therefore, I think online classes for youth is doing a disservice to our society.

I have taken a few online classes. They were great if you didn’t care about learning the subject and just needed the credits to pass a requirement. There was a group of students in one of my online classes who “worked together” on class assignments and tests. The way the teacher measured our reading was by online assessments. Every assessment was the same. One student would take the quiz/test and the computer would immediately grade the test and post all questions and correct answers. That student copied, pasted, and emailed the answers to the rest of the students in this alliance so they could get perfect scores without any effort. Online classes set up in this manner encourage and reward cheating. I loved my online math class. I took an algebra class online so that I could qualify to be on my parents’ insurance after I graduated from the university. I was able to rush through the semester-long course in a few days. It was convenient for me, but I would never want to take a class like this if I didn’t already know the subject material. I have not had a challenging online school experience which has made me skeptical of the quality of an online education.

There are, however, great advantages to an online class. Distance learners can participate without consuming their entire day with a commute. Students can work at their own pace. One online teacher says that her students tell her, “I can’t rewind my instructor, but I can rewind your videos.” (Moore, 2009) The power of the rewind button has been great for teaching. Students no longer have to hastily take notes. They can take notes on one topic, pause, and move on to the next without missing anything. If they do miss something, they can go back. Online classes are on the cutting-edge. Anything that is new and exciting will enthrall and captivate our digital-native students. Also, students are not distracted by other distracted students. Class-time is not wasted by venturing off topic on a tangent. Of course, one of the most valuable aspects of online learning is the opportunity to “attend class” any time convenient to the student. There is no need to have to sacrifice work, family or life to meet in a brick and mortar classroom.

Face-to-face classrooms are the traditional way of teaching. It is in these classrooms that so much more is taught than what you can find on a lesson plan. Students learn from teachers, faculty, and other students how to conduct one’s self socially. These people skills are very important when searching for a job. On a job interview, the employer may not ask you to recite the process of the Kreb’s cycle, but they will judge you on your social skills. Face-to-face classrooms build teamwork as students can easily turn to their neighbor for help. Friendships are built. Students can always be seen and can’t fade behind a screen. When the student has a question, they will receive an immediate response rather than trying to contact someone for help and by the time the answer arrives, they have forgotten their question. It is crucial to protect the face-to-face classrooms and not let them become extinct.

In the article, “blended learning: combining face-to-face and online education,” (Wolpert-Gawron, 2011) the author gives a formula for blended learning: “Face-to-face + Synchronous Conversations + Asynchronous Interactions = Strong Online Learning Environment.” I agree that there should be a balance of online and face-to-face in order for a student to benefit the most from the learning methods available. With the online aspect, the student can have the freedom to work at their own pace. With the face-to-face aspect, they will be able to become socially responsible and responsive citizens. After making an online lesson plan, it was difficult to get started. Once I got the ball rolling, I could see how easy it could be to implement online into a face-to-face classroom. I would not mind teaching a blended class. However, I could not see myself teaching a strictly online class. I would feel like I have no power to inspire and reach out to my students (which is the reason I want to be a teacher in the first place).

Right now, in regards to education technologies, I feel as though we are in a transitional period of development that will continue on for decades to come. The issue at hand with remote, digital instruction is the various pros and cons that go with this emerging trend in teaching. While this method continues to become more common, benefits will become more apparent and issues will arise that will either cause or decline or be resolved and improved upon. While benefits include a greater range of potential students regardless of location, issues arise in maintaining behavior, focus or motivation when instruction comes at a distance.

One must also ask if the students can gain as entirely from instruction through a computer screen as they would being in the same room as their teacher, picking up on visual cues, body language and an ease of conversation and immediate response. I myself have experienced this first hand, and while remote instruction can be convenient in saving oneself a lengthy commute (or even the ability to be in another place all together), the experience of being taught by a flesh and blood person is lacking. People who know me will not, by any means, be surprised when I say that I prefer a more interactive, call-and-respond form of instruction, as I am constantly one of the more vocal people in any given class. Having to type a response, or worse yet communicate through threaded discussion or email, often is discouraging, annoying and labored. The time saved from one’s commute is wasted in waiting for a response to a simple question. Imagine now a classroom of fifth or sixth graders being taught remotely. How can one hope to captivate their very fleeting attention, motivate their task oriented work, or instill a a self reflective pride in one’s effort from a hundred or a thousand miles away?

One dynamic of remote digital teaching and learning I do see both having a lot of instructional value and providing a much needed change in the current instructional dynamic is the Kahn Academy. This is a non-profit organization funded heavily by Bill Gates that specializes in engaging, well constructed digital lessons on virtually everything. It started out as a tutoring session between Salman Khan and his cousin sent through Youtube that became a sensation because of strangers who happened to stumble across it found Khan’s method of teaching useful. He began creating more and more lessons using the internet application Google Sketchpad and the organization was born. This site exists as a totally free and openly accessible means for supplementary or even primary instruction on a wide array of varied academic topics. I think this could be the future of remote instruction and I’ll explain why.

The practical application of something like the Khan academy is a better allotment of instructional time and therefore, more effective management of teacher-to-student instruction and conceptual reinforcement. Essentially, the breakdown would be this: Students are assigned a homework task of watching the instructional video that introduces/reinforces/reapplies the instructional data on their own time. This is far more likely to happen because the video is more engaging and entertaining that the typical homework or even classwork assignment. The student comes to school with a relative understanding of the material and class time is devoted to reinforcement and task work with explicit teacher instruction. This works so much better (in theory) in many ways. Because time is not wasted in class with the teacher presenting a one-sided, partially stimulating lesson, more of a portion of the face-to-face experience can be devoted to having the students work out what they have learned while getting direct support from their instructor. Also, because the work is not done at home, the ever present problem of a lack of a parent’s knowledge in supporting the completion of their child’s work is not an issue, but rather both student and parent are able to view the lesson material together. This allows for increased parent support and better use of the parent’s time not having to recall and refresh say, math concepts they themselves had learned many years prior.

By essentially reversing the mode in which information is delivered and work is completed, students and teachers more effectively use their time together and apart from one another. That, I believe, is hands down the greatest current benefit of remote instruction techniques.

The argument of the costs and benefits of online education has been regularly prevalent in the college or university systems; however, as technology advances and our student population continues to change, the discussion of online classes will be pertinent to all areas of education, including secondary and elementary schools. This trend in online classes continues to rise, and “some analysts claim that some fifty percent of all classes will be online ones by the next decade” (Geib). While this new method of education seems to align with the technologically driven culture of the students it serves, some argue that the implementation of these online courses may not be as effective as many proponents claim. Though online education can be effective, I believe that relying solely on this method of instruction can prove harmful to students.

As a teacher at St. Bonaventure High School, I am required weekly to submit lesson plans that not only include the procedure and objectives for my classes, but an incorporation of Bloom’s taxonomy of learning domains. Bloom’s taxonomy is a classification of learning objectives in education. For students to truly learn, it is vital that they not only obtain knowledge and comprehend material, but that they use this knowledge to further analyze, comprehend, evaluate, and synthesize what they learn. Through independent learning or online courses, I believe that many students are able to comprehend material; however higher levels of thinking may be jeopardized or pushed to the backburner. For this higher thinking to occur, I feel that discussion and analysis is absolutely necessary. Though Skype and other methods of online communication can be utilized, in many instances online courses require a great deal of independent research and little interaction among classmates. As an article in the New York Times suggests, “Despite the Web’s abundance of primary source materials and distributed expertise, too many online courses stick to a “just the facts m’am” approach.” I do not believe that students will fully learn material if they just complete worksheets and take tests, one primary example of online courses.

My one experience with an online course in college was negative. Because I was simply reading material online, completing fill-in-the-blank problems, and taking tests, I found myself unable to fully comprehend and be engaged in the material. I commonly procrastinated and did poorly on most of my tests. Without control or consistency I believe that many students would struggle from this sort of education. Though I seem to speak negatively of online courses, this certain approach to online learning is not the only option. Effective results have been seen when discussion, collaborative assignments, driven instruction, and one-on-one communication is incorporated in online learning. Programs like Elluminate have been able to make this type of collaborative learning online more effective. I believe this type of learning that allow students to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize needs to be utilized if our educational system continues to progress in this direction.
While this type of learning has proved successful in schools across the nation, I feel that the most effective learning experience in the next ten years will be a combination of both online and face-to-face instruction. If used effectively learning can take place online, but meeting in person at sometime is important. In her blog on blended learning, Heather Wolpert- Gawron cites that an in person meeting increases accountability for students and allows for the importance of establishing class expectations. In addition, assessing and discussing both online and face-to-face may prove more effective for students of various learning styles. I for one prefer traditional face-to-face discussion as opposed to an online chat or a program like Skype. In our third week of EDU 515 I enjoyed our meeting online and do not feel that we necessarily needed to meet in person that night; however, I thought that it was somewhat difficult to get a word in and some people were more reserved than they would have been when discussing in person. Blended learning appears to be the most successful solution in both progressing with technology and effectively serving all of our students.

Because education is heading in the direction of online courses and blended learning, It is necessary that I prepare myself to teach in these types of environments. Many believe that online learning is used to save costs and that the future of educators is in question; however, the incorporation of blended learning places teachers in an important yet different position than ever before. It is important to realize the role that I will have in the future. Teaching an online class is difficult and requires knowledge of current technology and effective motivational skills. Though I would prefer teaching in a traditional classroom, I feel that the use of online conferencing, blogging, digital video, online workspaces, and other new educational technologies will help prepare me to conduct an effective online class. It is vital that teachers are willing to learn and remain current in the implementation of various resources that assist in online learning. In addition to knowledge of technology, it is critical that teachers are knowledgeable in how to successfully teach in an online environment. In my experience in online learning, I believe my failure was due in part to a lack of organization or direction by the instructor. To effectively teach an online course in the future it is vital that the structure of the course is organized, effective one-on-one communication can occur, and regular group discussions and projects are completed.

Though it is somewhat out of my comfort zone, the future of education is headed towards the digital or online classroom. With effective knowledge of technology and a proficiency in teaching in this online environment, I feel that I will be well suited to teach online courses. Relying solely on individual self-direction in learning will prove ineffective; however the incorporation of higher levels of thinking in online learning through discussion and interaction can prove successful in the future. The awareness of this necessity in effectively instructing online courses will benefit me as an educator in the future.

Online courses are quite common today for both educational degrees and training for employment. When pursuing an education today, it is possible that an online course will be part of the curriculum. In addition to online courses to complete a degree, employers sometimes require online courses. I have taken two online courses. Both of the courses were required for employment at Ventura College. I found the courses well planned, interactive, and educational. Although, at times I struggled with the online format, the multiple weekly due dates, sometimes there would be four due dates to remember per week, and a lack of availability of the online instructor. Overall, I believe that online courses can be a valid option for workforce training or for completing an educational pursuit or degree.
There are many advantages to online courses, such as the flexibility of when to study and participate in the course requirements and the ability to work on the course from home. These advantages are beneficial to students who work best by planning their own schedules, students who have full-time day jobs, and students that are not in close proximity to the college or university they wish to attend.
However, there are disadvantages to online classes, such as the availability of the online instructor and the comfort the student has with the online learning format. Students that are not comfortable with technology and online formats may feel overwhelmed in an online class. Also, the duration of an online class is often shorter than an on campus course, which is problematic if the students are not prepared for the amount of work they will need to do in a short amount of time. Both of these disadvantages can lead to a student dropping the course or receiving a low grade. In addition, the availability of the online instructor can be a disadvantage. If the instructor is not able to respond quickly, it can cause the student to become frustrated with his or her online experience.
Although I have had experience taking online courses, I have never taught one. My current teaching experience has only occurred in a classroom setting. If I were to teach an online course, I would want additional training in online course teaching and management. Because I have had positive experiences taking online courses, I would be willing to teach online courses. As a writing instructor, there are benefits to online courses. For example, there are many opportunities for students to read and respond to the assigned readings and to their classmates’ comments and essays.
In summary, online courses are common in workforce training and in educational institutions, and there are both benefits and possible difficulties in taking online courses. As an educator, I am interested in learning about online teaching, how to manage an online course, and the advantages and disadvantages of teaching an online course.