Thursday, June 29, 2017

Learning how to teach online through an online course

Two weeks ago I posted this:
I am taking a two-week course from a well known and reputable organization that credentials online courses (no names, but if you don't know who they are, you should).  When I finish I will have some thoughts.  On the good side, I plan to take the subsequent courses from the organization. 

Now I am finished and will finish my reflection on it.

I don't want to use the name of the organization.  Anyone familiar  with online education knows who it is; hint--it's out of the University of Maryland, originally.

This organization has a certain philosophy and system of online education.  It took me a couple of assignments to "align" myself with its philosophy.  At first I was a little snarky about it.  "I've taught online for 19 years. I was teaching online at the beginning and before online was cool.  I used to create my own courses in Front Page, before there were Learning Management System programs, for Pete's sake!"  After being told to redo an assignment, I said, "Ok, I'll play it your way, I get it."  By the end I said, "Ok, yes, this system makes sense, I see why it works and what they are doing."

What I get from this is:
1.  the concept of unlearning.  This does not mean forgetting, because obviously we can't erase memories.  I think of unlearning as "making space for a different schema or framework."  We can hold different schema in our heads at the same time.  I understand this organization's schema now.  I think it is very good and worthwhile, although rigid and granular when I might look at a course more holistically.
2. the need for humility in learning.  Humility is not a popular concept, but the act of putting yourself into a position to learn inherently means you submit to an authority, at least temporarily, for a larger purpose, and opening your mind to the value of what is taught.  I took classes during my doctorate from people I thought were in left field and still do, but I submitted myself to them for the larger purpose of getting a doctorate.  I learned valuable things from these people although I still differ from them philosophically.
3.  the experience of being a student.  Oh, I didn't like being told I did something wrong!  It reminded me to be empathetic for my online students, whom I often tell they are wrong in some way!  On the other hand, I am dealing with an online student who keeps plagiarizing and told me it was my fault and that I was ridiculous.  I take lots of online MOOC type courses (which didn't pan out as the end-all of higher ed but are very useful) but this one was more tied to work so I wanted to get a perfect grade.
4.  I learned about some new technologies and I saw how important alignment is.
5.  The facilitators did a fine job.  One of them teaches at a nearby institution and I already know her, so I think that helped.
6.  I plan to take two more courses and be fully credentialed by this organization.

Now, the downsides.  The LMS that this organization uses is inferior to what I am used to.  I think it is open source but it shows.  I really struggled with its layout and navigation, and this is from a person who has used two versions of Blackboard, Canvas, and D2L/Brightspace quite a bit.  Consequently, the course was not visually rich at all. I can appreciate some of that because I have often warned about over rich-courses that require too much bandwidth, but this course was just plain boring visually.

Secondly, it was intense and time-consuming, but that's really a good thing.  It makes it worthwhile and they don't want to give away their credentials. I noticed that most of the students did not keep up with the daily assignments.  I spent good money on the course and wanted my money's worth. 

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