Week 5 topic off-topic


These items are a little off topic so I’ll try to throw something related to Syllabus into the mix at some point.


Meeting yesterday at the consortium of institutions that make up our regional platform for delivering online classes to the outside world. I didn’t attend but according to my spies the reason instructors aren’t allowed access to editing the courses they facilitate through the platform is the first thing they do is “turn off the discussion forums.” To me, this has the character of an urban myth. Some particularly rank example of something the “opposition” would do were they to be worthy of your disrespect. These being administrators, of course leads me to believe they would have said during the ritual beheading of kittens that we all know is practiced extensively amongst those who rule the empire:-)


This did happen in a course I took online. Thinking about it, there is likely a less blameful explanation such as a glitch in the LMS program. The was a bone-head but not an evil or particularly adept bone-head. I can imagine discussion utilities being seen as distracting to someone unused to working in a “social learning space” as classroom. Generally, the instructor isn’t the originator of the mandate to push content to completion regardless if that means cutting “extraneous” discussions off at their source. The pressure to “cover everything” causes me to drop interesting asides even to very appropriate content. If we promise to cover something in a class, then, as a duty to the learner, we better do it! Even if the content is extraneous to understanding the subject, someone higher up has decided this is how the subject is understood and how it will be tested. Versions are not allowed.


This note on student stress from Innovative Educators special on student behaviour.


Student Stress

Starting college and other major life transitions are challenging and sometimes difficult to navigate. During this period, students encounter stress for a variety of reasons, including academics, family and romantic relationships, social situations, work and financial concerns.

While most students cope successfully with the demands of college life, some become overwhelmed. http://www.utdallas.edu/deanofstudents/behavior/


Much is said about the transitioning experiences of students but less about the transitioning of instructors to online. Not only are teachers subject to all the doubts and hesitations that characterize student angst, they are often mid-career professionals with years of hard-learned skills that might seem impossible to transfer from the classroom to online teaching. Forcing people at this level to change is not going to be useful. Engaging with someone’s identity is delicate work and unsuited to command and control methods. Also don’t think the method of burying teachers in technology training is productive*. That part of the conversation about teaching online should come later. This whole thing is about the relationships of teachers with their students and with themselves as practicing professionals.


Syllabus? Just finished a course transfer where the first module of the first course in the series has 53 Specific Outcomes listed. Here’s the first 6:


The learning activities in each section of this module are designed to help you meet one or more of the following Specific Learning Outcomes (SLO) below:


1.1       Describe the past and current definitions of health in Canada.

1.2       Explain the health-illness continuum.

1.3       Describe holism and the five dimensions of health.

1.4       Describe the twelve determinants of health.

1.5       Explain the relationship between health and wellness.

1.6       Explain the concept of health beliefs and factors that influence health beliefs and behaviours.


Each one of these is a course on its own. Lists like this used to go to the instructor to decide where, when and how the material was introduced and interwoven. Online these characteristics of the whole practitioner become fractionated with no one there to provide the holism of the dimensions of the factors that form the dimensions of the continuum. It’s just a bunch of stuff.


* ”…social media is a tool you can use to support social learning; social learning is how we learn”. © 2012 The eLearning Guild. All rights reserved. The eLearning Guild 120 Stony Point Rd., Suite 125 Santa Rosa, CA 95401 1.707.566.8990 Written by: Ben Betts


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  • Jim Sullivan  On October 6, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    Although it sounds like you did not have a good experience with it, I actually like the idea of a classroom–online or onsite–as a social learning space. And I try to think of how the syllabus can help me create a social space where students feel engaged and supported. This can be challenging because sometimes what I intend to feel engaging and supportive feels overwhelming to students. So perhaps I need to add the idea of “confidence” about where they are going through the clarity of how I structure the online space to my mantra…

    Thanks for getting me thinking!

    • scottx5  On October 6, 2012 at 7:01 PM

      Creating a social learning space is a great way to have something you can share either in your imagination or in reality with your students. For some reason we all understand spaces and know how to behave in them. In online courses it might be harder to create the sense of being there but not impossible. I’m reading “Creating a Sense of Presence in Online Teaching” and can’t find anything that seems useful. (Why are many teacher training books so in-useful?)

      I never felt like I belonged in school yet never felt like I didn’t belong on a construction job site. There must be some clue in the sense of belonging somewhere? An absence of being judged? Or maybe by being measured by standards I don’t understand or had no part in making?

      In the classroom I sense our teachers accompany the students on their journey rather than leading them. Thing is that they really are right there and can sense when to back off with the helpfulness.

      When I look at our training for teachers all that is there is self-paced without discussion forums. Not only do these courses leave out learning from each other, they model the teachers worst image of learning alone in a vacuum. Bad strategy.

      Thanks for your comments, helps me get clearer on which way to go with my training project.

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