Creating an online classroom and making sure that the students can be successful in them is a craft that instructional designers and instructors work on endlessly. Building online and blended content for the new technological classrooms requires more time and energy, than the traditional classroom that most of us grew up with. However, online instruction offers something that the traditional classroom doesn’t offer – the ability of the student to actively engage in thetechnological learning process, and gain hands on experiences that pushes them to really think about how things work in an innovative way within the field of emerging technology. That is one of the true defining characteristics of our modern American society “innovation”. We Americans are innovators.
Anyone can plug information in a ditto sheet, and/or
cram for a paper exam - only to purge that same information out the next day. But real learning, and true innovation, comes from hands on learning and building upon the skills one already possess. That’s what makes this country great. Innovation, hands on – sweat at the brow – even in the field of technology.
I can understand why a student would become distracted and may lose interest in trying to connect with certain online learning sites. Beginning users might need additional encouragement from their tutors or guides to help keep them on task at first. It’s new!
There are a lot of small secondary skills that are often easy to overlook, and simple processes can become complex rapidly if skipped by students. Grouping or organizing of information can become repetitive and lengthy within an online learning environment; making it hard to determine what information is useful. Using teachers as guides is a way to help students overcome these simple barriers.
In the process of trying to design an online instructional course, I find when I design an instructional online class that it is just as simple to prepare a video presentation or two, and strategically locate them in the design This better assists students more appropriately by means of describing the many different informational components.
Those who work at a distance as I do, have come to rely on the the assessments and feedback from the students we serve. It is good to be able to factor in as many changing variables as possible. Student feedback is invaluable.
For instance: If you have ever set and waited for a program to load, and all you see is a little arrow and/or hour glass on your screen - from a new users perspective that is “critical load time". Time that they do not yet understand. It is part of the learning process. Internet load time, if slow, can decrease a student’s motivation to remain engaged. Just waiting for the program to load drives some students over the top. I'm with the students 100%, I don't want to wait either; so designing simpler models is best.
Teachers are there to see that behavior is monitored with first time online users. Teachers as guides can help students with reinforcement that engages the students to use their prior skills to stay on task. Timely instructions can make simple concepts easy to understand.
The ability of a student to learn on their own is only measured by their own desire to be successful. The true test of eLearning is in the student’s ability to use their prior knowledge or skill sets to their fullest potential. We have to teach our students to be expert learners. We have to teach them how to use the skills they already have and then help them learn to research new concepts on their own.
Synchronous vs Asynchronous learning
Synchronous learning which is still done mainly in the classroom is not free of technology. You have labs, and chat rooms and video and audio. Technology is everywhere - It’s in the main classroom. A traditional classroom may be 80% free of technology, but the remaining 19 to 20 % is still using some form of technology. In the chart below you begin to see the bigger picture of how engrained technology is becoming in the classroom. Asynchronous is just the opposite of Synchronous - with 80% online and 20% using some form of video conferencing and/or face to face meetings. In the middle you have your blended courses with 20 to 79 % going in either direction. Blended is becoming more a norm for teaching at a distance.
I personally like blended learning. I like having a number of scaffolding tools to choose from when developing course content and how I will present it to my students. Student need to be able to transition through step-by-step procedural instructions, as well as sub-step instructions to achieve the instructional goals set out in any online and/or on blended classroom learning environment.
Students need to successfully connect with a tutor, a guide or online instructor, and be able to participate in an online collaboration using their intellectual knowledge that they already have. Students deserve the chance to do that. They are the innovators of the next generation. We owe it to them to craft the best online/ traditional and blended learning environments to help them reach the next step in their learning process. We need to teach them to be expert learners, and we will - because they demand it!
We need to challenge our institutions of higher learning to prepare the future educators of tomorrow to deal with the technological advances that are occurring every day. In many cases it has already begun. The traditional classroom is no more. Wherever you look there are computers labs, IPADs, calculators, cell phones. You have a generation of digital learners. I wonder - if they will have the instructors in the future to keep them motivated, engaged, and willing to collaborate in the learning process. You have to be where the learners are – they are in technology! That is where your instructors and your instructional designers will also be.
If no good deed goes unpunished – then we all will be punished for not taking the time to educate a new breed of teachers who will be able to keep up with the ever changing emerging technologies. Engage your students – but first you must engage your instructors. That is where your instructional designers come in. Instructional designers build the templates and platforms that teachers will load their content upon. Teachers work closely with instructional designers to build the best online classrooms suitable for learning and developing innovative skills.
The innovators of tomorrow are waiting for the tools we will develop today. Our inventions of today will be the tool for creating innovative students of tomorrow.