Advantages of Online Pedagogy

I like this. -norman

(Please edit, delete, and add to the content. I'm just thinking out loud here in an attempt to provide my brain some order in this EDUMOOC)

In terms of online learning and online pedagogy, and in my opinion, we are still at our infancy in designing online education/learning. Most of what I have seen has been essentially a duplication of the way we have always taught in the physical, brick and mortar school. The only difference being we provide the learner with a little more autonomy in terms of pacing through the content.

Response: Wikipedia is a fundamentally different model for constructing a reference work. What do user-constructed learning materials look like? Look at user-constructed newspapers ( / craigslist), user-constructed games (world of warcraft), user-constructed social media sites (Facebook) and you will find highly specific, granular needs being met, just-in-time (now). Watch this RSA video to understand why the time horizons of traditional education do not mesh with the online world (from minute 5:30 on): The Secret Powers of Time

Q: What are the real advantages of online pedagogy and learning? How are we taking advantage of the switch in technology focus from abundant information available at our finger tips (info consumers) to a focus of social interactions, civic responsibility, and a "maker" mentality? Does our online pedagogy/instruction/curriculum reflect these changes? Or are we stuck in a information consumer paradigm (recorded lectures, Kahn Academy, etc. etc.)

A: On the "are we stuck" issue: by "stuck" do you mean trapped by our biases? This white paper makes an interesting case that we are, in fact, blinded to the opportunities presented online by the models we use to filter and understand the world. I'm hoping all of us participating in eduMOOC may help to formulate some better models. -- John Graves

I know you all are doing some very innovative stuff, i.e. Michel Wesch out at Kansas State University (not sure about the online learning but his student projects are very innovative.

Online Pedagogy/Learning Strengths (as compared to traditional classroom instruction)

Global Perspective/Audience - Opportunity for more points of view and from different cultural influences. How is this feature designed into instruction?

Learner Autonomy - Learner is self paced and can go as quickly or as slowly through the content as needed. Does not prevent the learner who moves through course content quickly from just as quickly forgetting content. Focus should not be on pace, but on insuring (joy) desire for learning. Allowing learner flexibility in content area to address aspects of content that interest them.How do we design this into instruction?
Response: There are many online pedagogies. Some are time-limited (e.g., most have weekly "chunks" that must be completed), providing more limited autonomy. However, this is important for the success of many students, who struggle to prioritize family, work and educational responsibilities and "work to deadlines" in order to meet all of their obligations.

Range of Content Flexibility - Addressing the content, but learner determining the focus, essentially designing their own course for themselves.

Richer Discussion Due to a Multitude of Factors, Including:
*Bias--the lack of a physical presence in an online course means bias based on physical characteristics like weight, culture, dress, speech difficulties, physical disabilities, etc. are eliminated. The focus becomes what people are communicating in the course; they aren't disregarded simply because of how they look or sound.
*Anonymity--students often feel more comfortable sharing because of the inherently more anonymous nature of being physically separated and unseen by classmates.
*Asynchronous Nature--students have time to think about what they want to say before sharing it. They are never called on to come up with an immediate response, which eliminates the stage fright that may prevent them from being able to formulate a response to a teacher or classmate in a live discussion, even when they do know the answer.
*Opportunity--in a live class, often the extroverts dominate a conversation because they are more willing to speak out and share. This leaves less opportunity for people who are 'quiet' to contribute. In an online discussion, those who are more introverted have the same opportunity to 'speak out' because they won't ever need to interrupt someone to do so.
*Grading--points can be awarded for participating in an online discussion, linking the quality and quantity of contribution to a grade. In a f2f live discussion, the instructor has no easy way to tally how many times a student participated without interrupting an organic conversation, particularly in a large course where the instructor doesn't know every student by name. Grading also motivates those who are more willing to sit back and let others carry a discussion to contribute.

Learner Responsibility--In a f2f course a student is often able to be a passive learner. In the online modality, the onus for learning falls on the student. The learner must, by the very nature of an online course, become an active participant in their own learning. How do we help new-to-online students learn how to do that?

Greater networking opportunity for learners- In large online courses open to diverse audiences, there is a greater opportunity for learners to network with people of similar interests.

Much higher granularity of topic material- On-line learning need not be structured as a course at all. Learners can be guided through very small units of material. See, for example, the peer coaching going on at StackOverflow:
"... it’s just free. And fast. Very, very fast."

On demand- Learners do not have to wait for a class to be available, start at a given time of day or last a specific amount of time.

Online Pedagogy/Learning Weakness

Brick and Mortar Duplication - Many current models of online learning duplicate the brick and mortar model but in digital format. Does this insure that those students that were successful in brick and mortar would more than likely be successful in online model too? Are we guaranteeing success, playing it safe? What about the students for whom the brick and mortar schools do not work? Does online learning provide a model for their success that we have not discovered or implemented?

Interaction--research points to the level of interaction between student and teacher, and student and student, as very indicative of student satisfaction in their online course. Online courses commonly rely on discussion threads for student interaction. This may not be tapping other sources for rich student-student interaction; it may become a rut. What organic ways can we encourage interaction without imposing synchronous requirements or group projects?

Instructor Presence - To help ensure student success, instructors need to be have an online presence. Unfortunately creating a sense of presence, without being dominating, is a skill that seems not to be automatic and that needs tor be taught.

Assessment of Learning - If online learning is used for traditional post-secondary credit, then learning outcomes must be met for purposes of accreditation; joy in learning has to translate into the development of competence. How do we assess competence? Authentic and formative assessment is important and time-consuming, and is difficulty to automate (if that is even desirable).

Online Pedagogy/Learning challenges

Many challenges are already stated above. Some more:

Freedom vs. structure. MOOCkers probably think that all people like as much freedom as possible to choose their own learning paths and connections. This is not true. "Escape from freedom" from Erich Fromm points out that not all people like to be free, and [the paradox of choice] research shows that people experience much anxiety in choosing. I can't imagine an Accounting MOOC... In large online environments, we are sure to get all kinds of people. So the challenge is how to design an environment that satisfies people with different tastes in the freedom/structure continuum. In the discussion of this page, Jenny uses a travel analogy to point out that the choice may depend on how much the student previously knows about the subject matter: more structure for totally unknown topics.

JIT learning vs. JIC (just if case...) learning. In all profesions, there is some absolutely basic stuff that has to be learned even if not needed at the moment of learning. Challenge: design an environment able to satisfy JIT learning as well as JIC learning. Or else: find a way for JIT learners to find for themselves and be motivated to learn the tons of basic stuff that they need in order to accomplish a large project. "I am a JIT learner. I'd love to learn how to design and build a bridge like the Golden Gate"

Granularity. Most typical courses are too large for most JIT needs. But if made with a collection of too small modules, integration becomes a problem and much repetition is likely needed. Challenge: resolve this issue.

Rolling enrollment vs group work. One of the few largely consistent results of online and ftf pedagogy is that collaborative work, does work if done well. But group work usually needs learning events to start synchronously at specific pre-announced dates, whereas for JIT learning, individual enrolling should be able to happen any time. Challenge: find a way to allow rolling JIT+group work