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Face-to-Face? Online? 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 July 8th, 2011.

GOOD? BAD? BOTH?

Comments


So far, I’ve taken 3 online classes. Each class was formatted identically. The teacher assigned reading from a textbook, and each student had to post a 3-4 paragraph long response to a prompt generated by the teacher about the reading. Then, each student had to comment on 3 other students’ comments (a few sentences were acceptable), which added up to a total of 4 posts per student, per reading assignment. There were at least two essay papers due throughout the quarter, and these were sent directly to the teacher, and didn’t require a threaded discussion.

I would say the educational experience was so-so. I really appreciated doing the reading and the posting on my own time and in the comfort of my own living room. I also appreciated not having to drive across town. I did notice though, that my level of engagement was less than if I’d been in a real classroom, face to face with others. I didn’t feel very challenged. I would sometimes post some ideas about the readings that were not exactly within the mainstream, and because my posts were a tad lengthy, not very many people commented on my threads, and I got very little feedback. I noticed that a lot of people posted on threads as if they were texting: their grammar was atrocious. This is ironic, considering they were all in the teaching program. I feel that if we’d all been in a classroom together, discussing the reading, my point of view would have been heard, not simply scrolled over in favor of finding a shorter thread to read.

As a teacher, I would not like teaching an online class. For me, teaching is being on stage, where I am the star of the show. My classroom is my stage, and I get to call the shots. Perhaps I am too much of a control freak, and perhaps I am too much of a ham, but I love teaching face to face. For me, teaching online would be like eating a chocolate cake that has no chocolate in it. What’s the point? Sure, it’s cake, and sure, you’d still be teaching, but come on, the thrill would be gone. I think the only way I’d consider it is if it were in a blended classroom, like some of the articles mentioned. Although, I’d feel a bit sad, knowing that most of the students that were in my class (such as in the article about iHigh) were just there to get some last minute credits so they could graduate. Doesn’t sound very fulfilling to me.

For some students, such as the girl with ADHD and a hearing disability, receiving piano lessons online, I can see the benefit. There are certain disabilities, which seem to thrive in technologically filled scenarios. (Perhaps these people don’t have disabilities then, and are actually more advanced and have evolved before the rest of us.) Anyway, online schooling is definitely an option for some special needs students.

When I have kids of my own someday, I imagine that I will home school them, and use the online curriculum of Virtual Academy. For parents who home school, online classes must have really changed the way they taught their kids, and I imagine they would all agree that it’s changed for the better. I was really impressed with Khan Academy, and I will find a way to incorporate it into some of my lessons. I think it seems more engaging than Success Maker, which is a pretty boring math program most schools use today.

It sounds like many districts are using online classes to answer their budget problems. It also sounds like some schools are using online classes to solve problems of seniors with too few credits to graduate. Out of all of the articles I read about the pros and cons of online learning, one quote stuck with me the most. The quote is from the New York Times article, More Pupils Are Learning Online, Fueling Debate on Quality. The president of the Virtual High School Global Consortium said, “I think many people see online courses as being a way of being able to remove a pain point, and that is, how are they going to increase their graduation rate? If credit recovery were working, the need for remedial classes in college would be declining — but the opposite is true.”

“You’re not going to learn more easily or teach more easily; it’s just different,” says Maureen Cottrell, a Science teacher at iHigh Virtual Academy in San Diego. I haven’t had a lot of experience with online courses. I have had assignments that were assigned online, like threaded discussions, which I enjoyed. Also in one of my classes at APU, we logged onto “Tapped In.” It’s an internet chat site where, as a class, you can log into the teachers “coffee shop” and type to each other. It was exactly like a chat room, but for school. I really enjoyed it. We did it for two classes in a nine week session. I think it would relate to a lot of the students today because most are familiar with chat rooms or social media where you create a name and meet with others on the computer, typing not talking. The teacher facilitated questions about various ideas dealing with education and we shared our student teaching stories. I believe this was ideal and effective for the specific content we discussed for that class. We didn’t need to actually attend class in the classroom. I believe 70:30 is ideal, 70% in the classroom and 30% online. I am a firm believer of face-to-face learning and know that it has always helped me. I thrive on the interaction, socialization, and relationships built in a classroom. With the experience of our online course a couple weeks ago, I believe it was beneficial and effective. What we discussed in 40 minutes was something that could have definitely been accomplished online with no face-to-face interaction. I liked how we searched various things on iTunes, yet it was still interactive. We didn’t need to drive to campus in order to learn that.
I agree with the politicians and education personnel who say it is a cheaper form of education. That doesn’t mean it’s easier or the teachers don’t work as hard. They are spending the same amount of time, if not more, with their students and providing them the best education they can, at least they should be. Online classes are not for everyone. They are extremely individualized; each student is taking classes for a different reason. Like Cottrell mentioned, “There are students who cannot stop being the class clown, so in the traditional classroom setting they don’t do well. There are student athletes who are constantly going around the country. There are medical reasons why a student wouldn’t attend to a full time school.” In those cases, online classes are found to be the most effective, given the circumstances. There are also students who need to be in the actual classroom, and online classes won’t work for them. In past instances, the students who don’t succeed in an online class is due to the need of more one-on-one interaction or they didn’t realize how much they miss of the socialization aspect of school…..and both of those reasons are understandable!
Online classes are hard; the stigma that most students believe is they will be easier than a regular class. Like Cottrell said, “People in their 20s who’ve taken an online course through a university are aware that it’s not easy. The younger generation has a better perception of what online learning’s all about.” Teachers need to be trained for online teaching so the students can attain the best education that is possible, just as if they were in an actual classroom. The teacher still needs to learn about his or her students and provide a safe and positive environment for students to be able to take healthy risks in their learning. The first class should always be face to face. There are so many characteristics in the first class that need to be addressed using body language and allow for questions and answers immediately. With it being online, teachers may not answer the questions as fast as needed and now the students may begin to feel flustered and feel like they are already a step behind. I know when I am trying to contact a teacher and I don’t hear back as soon as I had hoped, I feel myself getting behind. I am the type of student who likes to get my work done before it’s due, so any set back in organization, stresses me out. Assessments should also be in person, in my opinion. This designated time also gives students the chance to meet with their teacher, if needed. There should also be designated times where the whole class meets together, whether online using Skype or in person somewhere. Threaded discussions are great and I love posting and responding to various topics, but the class should come together at least once in the duration of the class. Class size should be limited for this reason. Because the classes are more difficult and may seem foreign to some students, the teacher needs to be able to answer and give each student the time and education they deserve, that will not happen if you have an online class of thirty. In addition to class size, positive feedback is one of the most important aspects in any class, especially online courses. Differentiation should still occur for students who need extra help or to relate to various multiple intelligences, not everyone can learn by reading a PowerPoint.
Overall, I believe that students should experience an online course or contribute to assignments online. In most jobs, or in life, computers are a key component. Being able to use the computer, Internet, and various sites are a positive attributes of a person. Like I mentioned before, distractions can be a major issue in our students’ lives today, that’s why online courses may not be suited for everyone or at any age.
If I was to teach an online course I would want to be educated in some teaching strategies to best serve my students. I know how to teach in front of a class, I am not sure I would be as effective on the computer. Like anything, it would take practice, as well as trial and error to see what works best for me. Right now, especially early in my career, I will just stick to incorporating technology into my class. I will have assignments for students to participate in on the computer and provide fun, interactive lessons using the web.

As a student I do not prefer the “online” classes; from some students that like the “rewind” button and emailing back and forth it works for them. I would prefer a “blended” class, 70% face to face (interaction) and 30% online (internet, skype). I enjoy being in a classroom taking notes, starting on assignments and an explanation of homework assignments and projects due in the upcoming weeks. I like the idea of being together as a class and then some time apart. This type of “blended” class works out with my schedule as well. I agree with the online article “Blended Learning” which states five components required for a blended learning model. “Your first class should always be face to face. Assessments should be real time and the choice of F2F or online should be made available; there must be multiple times throughout the class that are synchronously conducted; differentiate your content delivery and discussion; keep the class size limited.” Blended learning is one way to keep up with the technology in a fast changing world.
Now as a teacher, teaching an online class is not why I got into this profession. As a teacher, I enjoy the interaction and connection that I have made with my students and staff at the school. It is important that I get to know my students and everything about them. I also enjoy differentiating instruction which can include using mini whiteboards, algebra tiles, think pair share worksheets and having students organize group presentations. I will definitely incorporate technology into the curriculum however I think it takes a special person with a lot of skills to be able to teach math online. I understand that most likely in 2019, there will be an overwhelming number of online courses that as a teacher it may be required to teach some online courses. I just hope that if and when that day comes, I am well prepared and that I’m still capable of creating a connection with students online.
Online courses seem to be the trend for many universities, community colleges and even high schools. “More students learning online” implies that “students in kindergarten through Grade 12-more than one million in the United States, by one estimate- taking online courses”. It continues to state that the cost for online courses are relatively cheaper compared to face to face learning. Some advantages an article states that students can work at their own pace and they will also feel comfortable asking questions when they need help. Students also are required to hold online discussions with other student, and “…chat rooms where students can present PowerPoints and go into breakout rooms and discuss in smaller groups” (The Highs and Lows of Virtual School). It is manageable for students that have learning disabilities as well. Some disadvantages is students may not have access to a computer at all times; or others just decide they don’t want to do the course. I also believe if a student decides to take an online course; they need to have some type of discipline; because they can easily get behind in a course.
Overall I enjoyed our time on skype as a class. It was not necessary for me to jump in my car and meet with our teacher. As a class, we were able to discuss topics as a class and browse the web at the same time. It was very educational and interesting. I hope to be able to use this in the future.