I learned…

…how to participate appropriately in an online discussion forum. Before this course, I could easily get away with “2” point posts in all my other online classes and pass without a problem. Professor Pickett made this very clear that it would not be that easy. I learned to dig past my initial understanding of a topic and get to the real “nitty gritty” to teach myself and my classmates something new.

…how to organize my workload. The amount of work in this class was astronomical from the beginning (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) but I learned how to organize myself so I would not be overwhelmed. I created weekly checklists for myself and prioritized my work appropriately.

…how to create an online course. Asynchronous instruction is not just putting links on a page and telling students to answer a few questions. It is about engaging the learner with content, fellow classmates, and the instructor. It is about making a student-centered environment where the individual takes control of their own education.

…what instructional design is. According to Merrill et. al. (1996), instructional design is the practice of creating “instructional experiences which make the acquisition of knowledge and skill more efficient, effective, and appealing.” It is about creating a learning experience that is efficient and effective as well as engaging to the learner.

…why self-reflection is so important. Often I would assume my work was complete until I took a good look at it and realized it wasn’t. By self-assessing most of my written work, I was able to be critical of myself and push my learnings to the limit.

…the differences and similarities between online instructors and face-to-face instructors. Although the medium is different, the basis of instruction is the same. Teachers today are meant to be the facilitator of instruction, not the keeper of it.

…to learn from my classmates. We all come from different places and experiences and we should learn from each other as we continue on a path towards a mutual goal. I may know things that others do not and vice versa. I learned to take advantage of that.

Out of all these things I think most importantly…I learned.

(3)

T-minus 5 days…

I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to write this blog. What have I learned? The question is…what HAVEN’T I learned??

I have said it before—this is the most difficult course I have taken in my graduate career. Expectations were set out for us from the get-go and we were expected to not only meet them, but to exceed them.

I think the area of this course that I learned the most in was from the discussions. Unfortunately, I only learned from my own research and postings and had little opportunity to learn from my classmates (the whole point of discussion). The bar was set high and I wanted to do well—I hope I demonstrated enough of my thinking to pass that section of the class.

Further, I want to point out how my learning has improved throughout the course by linking to a few of my discussion postings:

In module 2, I started this thread on what makes for an effective online teacher. Little did I know at the time that my opinions would change drastically! A lot of what I was saying had to do with the instructor facilitating instruction rather than purely teaching it…something very common in our discussions. By the end of this course, I learned that along with being a facilitator, the instructor must be a supporter and help the online learner throughout their successes and struggles—something that I often do not experience in asynchronous learning.

What a difference from module 2 to module 6! In this module’s discussion forum, I started a conversation about the millennial generation and their education. This is a personal thing for me as I am discussing myself and my peers. My discussion postings have gone from “skimming” the top of empirical research to truly digging into the topic and making my learning visible for my professor and my classmates. I learned how to research topics properly and write my findings in a clear, conversational way.

I wish I had learned from the beginning that these discussion postings were meant to be more like a short research paper rather than a discussion. From the very beginning of the course, I have not had the opportunity to truly view all of my classmates’ postings—this is due to the stress of ensuring my postings were good enough to pass this section of the course (something I am still not too sure will happen). I hope I have demonstrated enough my learning and showed how drastically I believe I improved so I can walk away from this class with a feeling of satisfaction, rather than resentment.

In other news…

I want to make sure I show what I learned in this module, specifically the readings. I have mentioned before that assessment seems to be my weakness when it comes to instructional design (and apparently my own learning experiences). I was pleased to read about assessment in an online environment in the Australian Flexible Learning Quick Guide Series. One thing in particular that stood out to me was how online assessment “should be sufficiently flexible and diverse to account for differing needs and circumstances of students undertaking online study” (p.4). This made sense to me as the reason why I started in a fully online program was due to the flexibility is afforded me. I chose this program because I needed a graduate degree and I was not sure where my life was necessarily going at the time—I still don’t! Therefore, why shouldn’t the assessment of online courses be the same? There have been times (many times) in this course that I believed the evaluation was unfair and even biased…nothing personal, Alex. I simply believed that I, as an individual in an asynchronous environment, should have the flexibility of grading procedures if absolutely necessary. As stated in the reading on assessment, part of the flexibility in online teaching involves “negotiating assessment tasks to account for student’s circumstances and needs” (p.5). This is something I definitely was not afforded in this course.

This reminds me of Luke’s post in response to my original on “Millennials and Modern Education”. Luke (4) mentioned that “the student is responsible for their grades and their education and has to know that the information you are gathering and what they are being assessed on has relevance to them, to their development and their continued learning”. To be honest, I don’t believe I even had the chance to develop and continue my learning because I was so obsessed about my grade and improving for the next time (something that I still have not seen…even at the end of the course). This could also be due to my “millennial” nature and my “self-absorbedness” when it comes to my grades—something that Luke (4) also mentioned.

Moving on…

I’m so happy this course is over in exactly 5 days. I have learned a lot and I hope I have demonstrated it without being too much of a pain in the “you-know-what”. I am continuing refining my course and would have loved to receive feedback on the final draft rather than the skeleton it was in the screencast provided to me. Nevertheless, I plan to review my peer’s assessment of my course and hopefully complete it to the high standards this course is asking of me.

I hope this blog was reflective yet informative and does not affect my grade in the same way Module 5’s did. Oh well…I will follow up with an overall learning experience in my next blog on Sunday.

(4)

“Progression requires direction”

Throughout this course, we have reviewed tons of empirical research that aim to determine what makes for a successful online learning environment. Among our findings, facilitation on the instructor’s part seems to be of upmost importance. But what does this mean? This is the question, we as students in this field, need to address in order to ensure meaningful learning experiences for our future students.

In this module’s reading by Randy Garrison, this idea of defining facilitation took hold. Specifically, Garrison states that “it is very important to facilitate and yet not dominate the discourse and, at the same time, be prepared to provide crucial input to ensure that the community moves to resolution” (p. 66). This is something we have experienced throughout the entire summer—Professor Pickett has done her best to facilitate instruction without dominating the discourse (specifically in our discussions). This is important to creating a student-centered learning environment while still taking on the role of an academic instructor.

Further, this topic relates to what we have been doing while building our own courses. I have to say, I have been very uneasy about my progress in this course (Professor Pickett knows this). As much as I have been trying my best to produce work that lives up to the expectations of the course, I find that I am still struggling to get by. This is very odd for me…I usually ace all my classes!

That being said, I appreciate that throughout the course we have been given the opportunity to work on our individual online courses little by little. I wrote in a previous blog about a saying my mother used to tell me: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! By facilitating the process in which we created our courses, Professor Pickett allowed us to determine our own way (little by little) towards a common goal while also helping us along the journey. This is valuable for both the instructor and student in an online environment.

Speaking of my online course…

I had a little bit of a freak out moment yesterday (Sunday the 4th). It was a busy week for me: it was my birthday, I had family in town, and I got in a car accident…I’m okay, but my car isn’t L

Because of all this, I was away from my course for a few days and came back thinking the course had to be complete by yesterday. So I spent the whole afternoon doing what I can to get it all done. To my dismay, I realized it is all due today, the 5th. WHEW! Good thing I got most of it done yesterday though—now I just have to do some touch ups and wait for feedback so I can get it finalized in the next module.

I’m pretty impressed with my work on my course. It is simple, consistent, and engaging. It puts the student in the center of the learning environment and I hope in the future it is not overwhelming. I know I will most likely need to make adjustments in the future due to technological advances and changing “mindsets” of students. This is okay, though…that’s what being an effective instructor is all about!

Again, I look forward to completing my course (finally) and gaining feedback from Professor Pickett so I can improve it in the next module. I also am excited to see how everyone else’s courses came out—we got through it together!

(4)