Online Learning Today: where do I fit in? (#edumooc)

As I get acquainted with the eduMOOC process, I am still feeling a bit consumed by the process of it all. I thought starting the course in between quarters of teaching would be the best option, as I would have extra time to devote to it. I have, however, found myself consumed with setting up my courses for instruction this term and enjoying my vacation – 5 days at East Harbor State Park on Lake Erie with my husband and children. I’ve kept up with the Twitterfeed and read through several blog posts, but I don’t feel quite organized yet. I’m trying to give myself a break as this is my first MOOC experience, but that’s not an easy task for an overachieving, type-A like myself. I’m working on it though.

I did, however, decide on how I would reflect on the Week 1 topic: Online Learning Today. Talking about where I fit into the grand scheme of online learning today will provide me with a starting point for where to head next as we dive into Week 2: What the Research Tells Us. I’ll be able to apply this research, hopefully, to my current position.

I’ve been teaching online courses for almost 4 years now and…to be completely honest…despised it in the beginning. I thought “why in the world would I want to take an online course or teach one when I can have a more connected experience in a face-to-face classroom?” Boy, how that opinion has evolved.

As I moved states with my husband’s job, I was forced into teaching online as a way to stay in the working world and be a mother at the same time. I poured myself into learning everything I could about how to connect with students through a variety of channels online and began experimenting with several different communication strategies. I’ve had great success with podcasts, Twitter, video messaging, and live virtual classes. My teaching has definitely evolved over the past several years, but one thing remains constant – I want to connect with each student.

I’ve learned that students, depending on their background, life experience, or generation, desire a different type of communication in the online environment. I’ve attempted to reach students in a variety of mediums to meet their individual needs. At first I complicated the learning process in my class by adding too many technologies and offering too many options. I realized quickly that this was way too much work for me without providing a significant benefit to the students. Too many options caused them to be overwhelmed and complicated the course content and my teaching efforts tremendously. For the upcoming quarter, I’ll be going back to the “basics”, as I’m referring to it.

I have tried to transform my course management system into something it’s not. It’s not fancy or social, it wasn’t designed for Twitter widgets, a variety of video or images, or even instant messaging. I’m trying to simplify things this quarter and focusing solely on how best to deliver the course content and assess student learning, as opposed to using the latest and greatest technologies. If I’m using a specific application or piece of technology, like Twitter, there is an organized purpose. If I’m embedding a video clip, I’ll map it to weekly objectives and provide students with a synopsis of why it relates to their learning and its importance for the week. Each week will have both an audio-visual component accompanied by text-based materials discussing the same information. I want to hit all the senses – this will provide the ‘options’ for the student.

During a week-long professional development conference organized by the College, I reviewed an archived presentation by a colleague, Valerie Connor, and her husband, Martin Connor, discussing student-centered teaching across the generational divide. I found it amazingly eye-opening as they connected the various applications used today to communicate with students with the different generations that populate our education system. They discussed why Baby Boomers might prefer Skype as opposed to the Millenials preference for Twitter or Facebook. They also mentioned how GenXers would enjoy a Screenr video as opposed to the GenYers desire for something like Meebo. It was a thorough presentation with great tips and application strategies, the archive is well-worth 40 minutes of an online educator’s time. These strategies have helped me to organize my courses for summer quarter a bit more according to the population of students I’m working with.

While still overwhelmed in the eduMOOC process, I’ve connected with several individuals in the blogosphere and expanded my circle of educator colleagues. I’ll report the first week as an unorganized success! The goals for the weekend and into Week 2 are as follows:

  • Link eduMOOC materials and colleagues to this blog.
  • Add my ‘favorite’ readings from Week 1 to Diigo.
  • Introduce myself in the Google Group.
  • Attend the live discussion on Thursday.
  • Engage in the MOOC readings for 15-20 minutes each day.
  • Reflect on what I’ve learned using this blog, hopefully twice in a week.

That looks like a lofty list for the first week of a new quarter with close to 120 new students distributed across four courses, but I’m up to the challenge! Thanks for your patience as I navigate through the blogging waters, I’m still learning how to best project my ideas in this format. Until next time — study hard, and often, I’ll talk with you soon! …that’s how I end each podcast episode 😉


About Heather Zink

searching for the right balance between face2face & online instruction -- manager of hybrid classroom initiatives at Rasmussen College
This entry was posted in Online Learning, Teaching Strategies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Online Learning Today: where do I fit in? (#edumooc)

  1. bnleez says:

    Great reflection and thanks for that. You ask, “Where do I fit in?” I’ve never ask myself that question in a MOOC before, but now that you’ve posed the question, I guess I’ve never really cared where I fit in. I have asked myself if I’ve found my groove or not, and I think in this MOOC I have. Finding the groove for me means that I do not feel overwhelmed by content and I can easily interact with others quite readily. The right mix of ICTs makes that happen. I’ve also realized that live sessions (as good as they are) really do not motivate me to participate in a MOOC – I’ll blog about that later.

    It’s always a pleasure to connect with others who have a personal blog because you get to see what others have written about in the past on their own terms. This is why I avoid for the most part Google Groups and Moodle forums because sharing ideas on a blog is more about making the connection and contributing to someone else’s digital identity. That, for me, is much more fulfilling than contributing to a group or forum that many times will cease once the MOOC has completed.

  2. Helen OTUK says:

    Thanks Heather, a question I keep asking myself … but I think I am ‘finding my groove’. referred to in this weeks reflections –

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