During my 8 week online E-learning for Educators course at the University of Wisconsin we were asked to keep a weekly reflective journal. The purpose of this journal was to explore the learning process, identify goals for my teaching/learning, evaluate my participation in the course, and identify areas that I could actively apply to my work.
The following are excerpts from this journal that have been organized under appropriate headings and summarize my thoughts on the subject. In some instances I reflected on subjects early in the course and then readdressed those areas later and I have thus included the week reflections were written for reference.
I have already learned a few things about online course development including the idea of an interactive syllabus. This came up purely out of a conversation prompted by my primary post and general frustration with the one document brain dump that is the syllabus.
I love the fact that there is a checklist on the site, helps keep me on top of what needs to be done each week.
I am starting to feel like frequent short assessments would be a good way to make sure that everyone is staying on course.
In week 3 we were asked to facilitate a discussion on Moodle, and I found that posting my question without a proper introduction resulted in uninspired dialogue. In the future, I will incorporate a brief background and a photo to enhance student engagement and the understanding of the context in which the question is being asked.
Additionally, I decided to utilize very intermittent interventions to give the participants time to respond to the posting and interact on their own. However, participants did not become engaged with each other and indeed did not respond to my followup summary and question. Students did interact readily in other discussions when the facilitator addressed each individual instead of the group.
In week 4 we utilized Moodle to create short assessments. This time around I utilized a photograph and a descriptive introduction and was pleased with the result. I also started to understand the limitations of Moodle. While it is ubiquitous and freely available it does at times feel slightly outdated. After exploring tools such as wikispaces classroom, I developed an appreciation for the “all-in-one” learning management system that would organize materials/tools in one space and readily facilitate a collaborative learning environment.
Self Paced Information Fluency Training
In week 5 we completed a self-paced information fluency training that resulted in a collegiate level certification. The training was rigorous and included over 14 tutorials on a variety of subjects focused on the idea of readily identifying relevant information online and verifying the validity of said data.
Information fluency was not something I had previously considered as an important topic. Especially, considering my age bracket and how we were dissuaded from using any online sources in our research papers during high school and undergrad. I have an innate skepticism of almost all sources in which I am not familiar.
However, I did learn a number of valuable skills for interacting online and considering the varied backgrounds of my students, it is definitely something I will include in my curriculum design.
Additionally, self paced tutorials can be an invaluable resource, as long as they are well done, updated regularly, and designed by experts in the appropriate field.
In week 6 we curated a Scoop.it! magazine on a topic of our choosing. I loved using Scoop.it! and I am still updating my magazine on Massive Open Online Courses. It is a great format for curating information and sharing it easily to a wide range of people. It is exactly what I was looking for when building my website, but it is a much for innovative and fast paced way to curate information.
I was excited by the prospect of being an online curator of information, especially considering my new found understanding of education as more of a creative and collaborative process, than the traditional memorize and repeat. It is more a world where anyone can add to the body of knowledge, and this innovative perspective should create an exponential growth in human achievement.
I am realizing that the vast majority of the course and my learning generally will be self motivated and self taught. I experienced this format as an instructor at St. Marks and now I am on the opposite side. I can now relate with some of the frustration that my students exhibited, it feels like the instructor is less engaged than traditional formats and the take home message is not clear. Wonder how this pitfall can be assuaged, or if it will be naturally as the course progresses?
This week we focused on group dynamics online and offline. It seems that in order for social constructivism to work that students need to take ownership of the group and generate the ground rules. I feel like we made some progress towards that, but there was no format for generating a consensus. Would be nice to have some real time discussions to make sure everyone is on the same page, or have the instructor summarize what the group had learned that particular week. Does not feel like we are all on the same page.
As the course is wrapping up I now have a real sense of pride in my accomplishment. The course was indeed what I made of it. The amount of effort I put in each week was proportionate to my learning and while this is the case no matter what pedagogical format is used, I felt especially invested in the course as I was responsible for the learning of my fellow classmates as well as myself.
In the beginning, the reliance on other classmates to complete my work was definitely a drawback to the course. Since we were required to respond to at least 3 colleagues posts it was often cumbersome as people were on different schedules throughout the week. I now know that this requirement was essential for the course design.
Looking at the course design and implementation at a meta level I hope to implement a somewhat similar design in my future coursework. As the instructor, it will be imperative to keep the students on track with regular short assessments and well timed question prompts. I also, would like to emphasize critical thinking skills, student generation of innovative content, and information fluency.