Week 7

Imagine a large empty auditorium with one person in the audience watching a single small TV talking on the stage. Is this a learning environment? 

So far Ko and Rossen seem ambiguous about the value of student participation in an online course. Letting students interact has always been messy and inconvenient. Now that we can deliver content to the isolated individual what advantage could there possibly be for learning with others?




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  • knormwNorm Wright  On October 19, 2012 at 3:47 AM

    Well it sounds rather dismal when you describe it that way. The truly remote isolated individual might prefer it over no learning at all. However I think we can do better than that for him, though he might need to get himself a better TV.

  • scottx5  On October 19, 2012 at 7:48 AM

    I do live in an isolated place and appreciate online courses for news from the outside world that I can’t get here. (None of the courses our college offers cover my interests and as a course editor I get to “take” them all anyway). My concern is that in isolation human presence becomes precious and if our students can’t come to the campus how can we replicate at least part of the being together of attending class?

  • VanessaVaile  On October 20, 2012 at 11:44 AM

    My own first hand experience about what happens in those courses is that students form their own groups, on their own initiative ~ like a natural, organic process. Rhizomatic without even being familiar with the term.

  • Donna  On October 20, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    Since I teach language, this would not work for me! In fact, I don’t think it would work for any subject matter. We are social beings, we need to interact with each other. We learn best through dialog….

    How many times do you not remember what you watched on TV the night before…? That happens to me all the time! But then again, maybe I’m just old!! lol

    • scottx5  On October 20, 2012 at 1:50 PM

      To Donna and Vanessa, social learning is very important and I’m interested in how it functions so we don’t lose it in the process of building online courses. Aside from the negative association with efficiency and the factory model, why do we assemble students into classes? Why not just assign them a small cubical where they live and pipe in the Khan academy 24/7? This is way less messy and there are no distractions.

      But what if ALL that mess is part of the learning process? Dare we allow something we can’t control (and secretly know controlling will kill it)?

      I grew up reading “Lord of the Flies” and “Animal Farm” and always thought there was something hidden in the intent to warn us kids about the evils of group dynamics. That things always turn out badly for those bold enough to declare self-rule. Especially kids. Did the authorities think cautioning us on the dangers of authoritarian excess made them seem to be on our side? (Try to float that in a book report in the middle of the Cold War:-).

      Anyway, the whole distance/e-learning subject is causing us to question old ideas. Some we need to get rid of and some like f2f language teaching are very difficult replace with virtual classes. I wonder if in the background while learning together there’s a sense of accountability to those around us. A sense of “getting it” so we can help those who didn’t?

  • Anjana  On October 20, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    I think learning with others you can learn more and even faster, sometimes, than you expected, here you are learning with people from all over the world and learning not only what is said in the materials are given to you by the teachers, presentations, websites, videos…etc… You are learning talking, sharing, being connected with this people and from their comments and ideas…


    • Scott Johnson  On October 20, 2012 at 2:38 PM

      Hi Anjana, agree with you that much of the valuable “content” of this course is the connections it creates to other people. This is hardly a new insight but do you think the community that forms around a course or training series is as important as the material itself?

      When I think of the “professional development” seminars we are offered at our college I get a sort of empty feeling. It’s not that they aren’t convenient for the “busy professional” (exchange “busy” for overworked) only they don’t offer time for reflection, are often given by “presenters” rather than practitioners and their very convenience goes against the fact that the things I contend with are neither convenient nor presented in compact and pretty nuggets of learning.

      I wonder if the new selection process for rating schools will be based the quality of the virtual communities that form a halo around them?

      • Anjana  On October 21, 2012 at 5:07 AM

        Hi Scott
        I dont think the community has more important than the material itself but I think it could help to the students not only with the material, it can help in general with the whole way to face the training, but I think we are not able to see its opportunities because we are not used to feel and participate in a community that gives us space to look for and contact with the knowledge and the resources we are looking for to understand better something or improve our skills in something. We are normally trained in going to read, hear and look at something (video, book, webpage…etc) to get the knowledge we need but not to work in groups and less to work in a learning community to get it.

  • Melissa Conrey  On October 20, 2012 at 9:14 PM

    I wonder if students who tak online classes expect this type of “isolation?” Recently, I surveyed my students to see if they found the audio annoucements I’ve been creating helpful. Surprisingly, many of them said that they prefer to read the information instead of listening to it? Maybe some online students like the anonymity of online learning?

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