Improving some things, Changing others…

Okay…things are getting a little better during Module 2.

I have to say, I was a bit discouraged when this course began. Module 1 was extremely demanding in terms of discussion posts and the specifics Professor Pickett requested of them. Although I do have experience in taking online asynchronous courses, I was certainly thrown for a loop the first two weeks. I am happy to say now, however, that I am learning how to be much more specific in what I write and to back up my proposals with scholarly articles shared with the rest of my classmates.

So far in Module 2 I have completed two discussion posts on what it means to be an online instructor and have read the article “Do Online Students Dream of Electric Teachers” by Jason Scorza (2005). While reading this article, I began to think to myself how I plan on altering my approach in the upcoming modules of this course. For example, in my discussion posting, I addressed the concept of multiple intelligences and how online educators must be able to cater to ALL learning types in order to provide a meaningful learning experience for his/her students. This sparked a conversation with a few of my classmates and I look forward to continuing the discussion over the next week. Scorza’s article talked about a lot of the same points I stated in my discussion and I could have used some of his thoughts as additional evidence to prove my claims. In the next module, I will make sure that I read the articles assigned before continuing into the discussion boards.

Speaking of Scorza and his thoughts of online education, I was quite intrigued by his comparison of and online/distant learning environment to that of science fiction novels and movies. In his article, he suggests that “empathy, respect, compassion and consideration” must be portrayed to distance learners so that they “feel that they have taken a class taught by a real person and not an automaton” (Scorza, 2005, p.46). In my experiences, I believe this to be true as students and teachers are not afforded the luxury of an in-person experience while participating in an online course. Because of this, heavy emphasis is placed on student-content interaction. Online instructors must be able to show their students that same kind of personal relation that one would receive automatically in a face-to-face classroom.

So my question to my colleagues is how does one provide the level of empathy and compassion to his/her students in a distant learning environment? I have had online instructors in the past that have had little to no interaction with me as an individual student. I have had others that bombard me with emails and an overwhelming sense of “in your face-ness” behind the computer screen. Does advanced technology like podcasts, audio, images, etc help to provide the personal experience students need to connect with information in an online environment? According to Scorza, the answer is in “pedagogy rather than technology” (Scorza, 2005, p.48).

That brings me to another thought I will mull over the next week…

Is there one specific pedagogy that must be implemented in an online classroom to ensure empathy and proper implementation of knowledge? Is every instructor different? Can it even be achieved through just a keyboard and monitor? I welcome my classmates’ answers to these questions as I will need to use them in the course I am designing.

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