This is my fourth Couros brand edtech online course that I have taken, and my 6th online class overall from the University of Regina. The first two edtech courses were presented using the software Blackboard Collaborate, with the last utilizing Zoom. The other two online classes I took made use of UR Courses and there was no live streaming of content or discussions in those two classes. To round out my online learning experiences, I have also participated in several MOOC’s, and like most people, have learned a great many things from sources such as Khan Academy and YouTube.

 

I must say, from all of my experiences, my favourite tool has been Zoom. I really enjoy the social aspect of learning. I enjoy discussions and hearing other peoples thoughts. Zoom provides the best simulation in my mind of a face to face experience as it allows for all of us a part of the class to see each other, hear each other, and it allows for chat and discussion even if you are not actively talking in the class. I do not actually recall much about Blackboard Collaborate, but I don’t recall having any breakout groups. This is a feature I particularly enjoy with Zoom, as small group discussions just seem to foster more involvement from participants as it can be overwhelming having discussions with such large groups as some people hold back due to anxiety, and some people just can’t get their voice heard due to the demands of so many people wanting to put in their two cents.

 

If you’ve got a second…or about 1,200 actually, watch the TED Talk below about online education and coursera.

https://embed.ted.com/talks/daphne_koller_what_we_re_learning_from_online_education

Daphne Koller mentions how online learning has been around for a while, but what has separated MOOC’s from other options is how it mimics an actual course with such things as start dates, assignments, deadlines, etc. When I heard this my mind quickly went to Krista’s blog which I read earlier today where she says, “I was reminded that if teaching an online class we must create a school atmosphere where students are encouraged to seek and ask for help”. I always think one of the keys to real learning is community. I enjoy learning all the time. I am a lifelong learner. I enjoy reading non-fiction books and watching YouTube videos with the purpose of learning something, but, like John Green mentions in one of my favourite TED Talks, it almost feels like erecting your own hurdles to jump through. Being a part of a community of learners allows you to engage with material and ideas you just can’t seem to do if you are learning on your own. Daphne, in her talk, states that from these MOOC’s, what arises is “a global community of people around a shared intellectual endeavour”. This, in my mind, is a powerful learning opportunity.

https://embed.ted.com/talks/john_green_the_nerd_s_guide_to_learning_everything_online

I feel drawn to online education. I would be more than happy to teach an online class. I really enjoy the social aspect of education and so I would really prefer to have online classes using a tool like Zoom that allows for communication (instant and visual) between teacher and learner. My concerns are that I can’t quite replicate online what I feel I offer in person. Logan has similar concerns and thoughts when he says, “That’s my favourite part of teaching, getting to work and talk with as well as read and respond to students… is that gone in the distance classroom – even with synchronous sessions (perhaps offered via Zoom)? And does this lend itself to more direct instruction? What about the socialization of being on campus and engaging with other students in the classroom?”

 

What continually pops up is the importance of replicating a school environment and for learners to feel a part of a community in which they can engage with. With ever advancing online tools, we are getting better and better at offering these characteristics in online learning. I don’t think we are quite there yet in some ways, but online learning also has advantages over traditional learning opportunities, the biggest of which is accessibility. I feel proud to say that I have completed an astrophysics class from Australian National University via EdX, in which one of the teachers was a Nobel Prize winner for discovering Dark Energy. That’s an opportunity I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I would have preferred to have sat in that particular class live, or even if the class would have been taught synchronously, but it was great nonetheless.

 

Do you feel that you would be able to replicate the experience of being in your class online?

 

Live long and prosper

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