February 27, 2012 in Featured
I am currently enrolled in an online course through Johns Hopkins University titled Designing and Delivering e-Learning Environments. As I approach the half-way point in the course, I am struck by how much I’ve learned in the past several weeks about a subject I thought I already knew a lot about. What comes to mind when you hear the term “e-Learning?” What are the essential elements needed to develop effective online learning environments? The six essential elements presented in this course include:
- Community Building
- High-Performance Teaming
- Content Presentation
- Engaging Activities
- Higher-Order Thinking
- Tone & Style.
Six weeks ago, my own list of essential elements would probably have included some form of the last four, but neither of the first two. Now, however, I can’t imaging developing an effective online learning initiative without those first two elements. I am experiencing firsthand (as a student) the impact that each of these six elements has in an e-Learning environment. As for Community Building, we spent time right from the beginning of the course getting to know our classmates in a fun and creative way. Rather than feeling intimidated by my colleagues or wondering if my writing tone and style has to be formal and impersonal, I feel very much at ease. This has helped increase not only my comfort level in sharing my ideas and opinions with the class, but also my desire to do so. I find that I check our discussion forums several times a day and look forward to reading what my classmates have shared.
Participating in High-Performance Teaming has been the biggest eye-opener of all. After experiencing firsthand how effective this can be, I can honestly say I’ve never truly collaborated on a school project before. My experience with group work has always been “divide and conquer.” And I usually conquer more than my share. I’m one of those people who naturally would prefer to work on my own. I get frustrated and impatient when I have to wait for others to complete a task before I can finish my work, and often end up doing others’ work just so I can move forward. With our high-performance teaming project, we truly have worked collaboratively. We each found videos, web articles, and documents to use for resources and made suggestions about which ones we thought were most useful. After writing the initial direction activities, my teammates made suggestions for revisions that really increased the quality of the learning activity. We each brought different strengths and skills which came together in a remarkable way. I actually enjoyed teaming for once! Another benefit of this teaming is that I find myself inclined to respond to all of my team members’ posts in our whole-group discussions. I don’t know if that comes from a sense of loyalty or just that I feel like I know them better because I’ve interacted with them more (in our team setting). Whatever the case, I like having that close-knit feeling of working in a small group.
I am looking forward to applying what I’ve learned to my own e-Learning initiative. I am developing a six-week mathematics course for rising middle school students. I have complete support from the administration, and I expect parents will be highly supportive as well. Working with this young age group provides additional challenges, since online services must comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (Google and Facebook, for example, require students be age 13 in order to create accounts), but I plan to incorporate a variety of web 2.0 tools to develop community building, assist with high-performance teaming, create engaging activities, and present content that promotes high-level thinking in a friendly and aesthetically pleasing way. It’s a tall order, but I’m up for the task!
- MIT Launches Online Learning Initiative (technologyreview.in)
- Can you really ‘Be There’ in Online Learning? (onlinelearninginsights.wordpress.com)
- #IOLchat Report: Community and Collaboration in Online Courses (onlinecollege.org)