Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Reflections on Learning Online

This week, our reading focused on elearning and it's relationship to instructional design. One of the ideas presented by the authors, Reiser and Dempsey, that is of interest to me and I agree with is the fact that technology used personally and by schools and corporations and the level of technology use by all is changing so quickly that it "has outstripped our ability to modify or maintain existing definitions." (2007). Some examples they provided is the fact that the educational field used to be defined more by modality, ie, face-to-face (f2f) vs. distance, asynchronous vs. synchronous, hybrid vs. fully online, etc. The authors believe that defining by modality is outdated, as now days any combination of these may be found in any of the learning environments and that we are beginning to recognize "learning as learning," whether f2f or distance, asynchronous or synchronous, or a combination, along with inclusion of social media and collaborative tools. Personally, I don't even think the newer generations understand the differences in the same way as I do or generations past have. To the newer generations, it's all learning and they have come to expect a combination of any and all of the various modes. Computers, online access/applications, mobile access/use, and social media is a way of life, not specific to learning, but definitely a part of learning. Of course, this isn't true for everyone in the newer generations and particularly not in all countries, but for the majority of Americans, I would expect it is fairly commonplace.

Another point Reiser and Dempsey brought out that I don't find happening much in my experience as an instructional designer or as an online student, is "Where collaboration is needed, learners should be able to self-select from a variety of tools such as instant messaging, texting, wikis, and conferencing technology. Where interaction in real-world environments is important. Web conferencing tools and virtual worlds should be available for discussions, meetings where presence is desirable, or role-playing." (Reiser and Dempsey, 2007). Although the tools are certainly available, I have found educators and students reluctant to try new things or use them. Oftentimes they seem to want to stick with the "tried and true." Formal discussions on discussion boards have become the norm, which can become very, very boring, in my opinion. Or there might be a few links here and there, PowerPoint files to download and read, a video, and many PDFs or oftentimes what seems to be the "same ole, same ole." In the same paragraph within the textbook, Reiser and Dempsey (2007) made the point that, "Certainly, the proliferation of all of these technologies contributes to anxiety for learners and instructors," which I have found to be very true in most cases, although not for me personally.

For example, I worked with an instructor to implement the use of a Wiki for a Global Management class she was teaching. The way she used the Wiki for the assignments and the way she wanted to grade turned out to have a few issues, but with tweaks, could be made easier for her. What interest me the most about the experience though, were the comments from students. The comments went all the way from students feeling scared, but enjoying the "change-up" to the typical online class to another student hating it and feeling angry at the instructor for implementing something that caused her to have to not only learn content, but a new tool. I also have experienced in an online class where an instructor gave us a lot of different collaboration tool options, but the group I was a part of were very traditional and didn't want to use anything except discussion boards, which was very cumbersome an inefficient for our project. I felt so frustrated at being outvoted and that no one was willing to try something that could make our collaboration so much easier. I'm sure the other students didn't want to use any of the other tools out of fear or a general unwillingness to try new things.

So, even though technology has brought about a lot of changes in the newer generations overall and in our daily lives, I don't think that online or elearning is as advanced as we "say it is." The technology is there, but the educators and students are not!

Reiser, R. A. and Dempsey, J. V. (2002, 2007, 2012). Trends and issues in instructional design and technology. (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

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