As mentioned in the VCC website under courses/programs (Unknown, 2013), the purpose of the PIDP 3250 Instructional Strategies course is to present its partakers with a variety of instructional strategies and techniques that they can adapt to their teaching styles/practices and learning environments. Participants of this course will be presented with the following: motivational strategies to engage learners, managing the classroom environment, how to foster creativity and critical thinking. The course primarily focuses the on the following instructional strategies: journal writing, reflective practices, group discussions, interactive lectures and collaborative learning assignments (Unknown, 2013).
When I first viewed the assigned topic for this journal entry, “ Journal on one thing that made you think more than any other your were exposed in this course”, to be honest nothing came to my mind abruptly. I sat on my bed with my laptop for a good 20 minutes before I started to jot down what came to my mind. As I reflected on what I learned from this course I kept on thinking about how anxious I became when I viewed the volume of posts in the online discussions (even though I went online everyday) and how I was consistently struggling to just sift through and read all the activity in the class discussion forums. At one point I was so exhausted from examining the readings presented/recommended in the discussions that I failed to post the information I was posting in the group forums onto my blog (letting things pile up). I have taken many classes online but I felt that in this particular class I was constantly running behind, didn’t have anything “new” to add to the discussions as there was so much discussed so quickly by a few very active classmates. So after some thought on one thing that made me think more than anything else I was exposed to in this course was the overwhelming feeling and anxiety I got from the group discussions/volume of posts.
I have learned quite a bit from this course and I whole-heartedly agree with the course description, as it’s an accurate reflection of what the course is about. I am well aware of the advantages and disadvantages of online learning; however, I must say that it is very different to actually experience them first hand. I have been very fortunate to experience the advantages of online learning. As mentioned by Kumar Dhirendra (2010) in the article, “Pros and Cons of Online Education” the advantages I have had the opportunity to experience include its convenience in relation to study location, course duration, time, access to recourses and high quality dialog. Dhirendra (2010) also examines the additional benefits of online learning such as, synergy where there is a, “…High level of dynamic interaction between the instructor and students as well as among the students themselves. Ideas and resources are shared, and continuous synergy will be generated through the learning process as each individual contributes to the course discussions and comments on classmates’ work. [and]…creative teaching: In the adult education class with the interactive learning environment may contribute to self-direction and critical thinking. Especially the nature of the semi-autonomous and self-directed world of the virtual classroom makes innovative and creative approaches to instruction even more important.” (Dhirendra, 2010). I could not agree more with Dhirendra’s thoughts as this course as well as my previous online courses enabled me to experience the benefits of synergy and creative teaching/learning. I also found myself doing my best to ensure that before commenting/participating in dialog that what I had to offer was of high quality. Some of the challenges I came across with in regards to online discussions I felt was that although conversations were very rich in reflections of my peers that there was monopolization and lack of focus in the conversations (there were too many general comments). For instance, there were high volumes of “thank-you” and I agree with your thoughts posts. Often just seeing the amount of daily postings caused me anxiety and I found it very time consuming sifting through the posts. As mentioned in the paper, “Ground Rules in Online Discussions: Help or Hindrance?” by Kari Morgan (2006) that some of the challenges that I have come across are common in online discussions and that, “Instructors that have used discussions have found specific rules and guidelines to be a necessary component of the classroom’s structure. Ground rules prevent problems from occurring that can interfere with learning such as lack of participation, monopolization, lack of focus in the conversations, or student anxiety.” (Morgan, 2006). So although I learned so much from the course and what my peers had to offer I really felt overwhelmed and anxious.
Having experienced first hand some of the unique challenges of online learning I now really understand that they are real and not just hypothetical. I cannot express how valuable even experiencing the challenges of online learning are-as I feel that I can be more mindful of the potential pitfalls of online education and what some challenges learners can come across. So what can I as a learning facilitator do to prevent or reduce the chances of this from occurring in my learning environment? As mentioned by Morgan (2006) I can establish guidelines that will help, “…support a positive learning environment and maximize the beneficial aspects of discussions (Brookfield & Preskill, 2005; Bryant, 2005; Suler, 2004). Ground rules can serve as a means of clarifying instructor expectations regarding the content and/or quality of online discussion postings, which enhances the overall experience for all participants.” (Morgan, 2006). Chad Shorter (2011) presents some great guidelines that I will utilize and present to my students and share in my online learning environment in his article, “Guidelines for Effective Online Discussions”. I believe that is will be a best practice that will use so that I can ultimately foster a positive learning environment and positive online learning experiences. I believe all experiences are valuable and have something we can take away from them-even not so positive ones. I have extracted as much as I could from my experiences in this course and am able to say that all of my accumulated knowledge and experiences are very valuable.
Dhirendra, K. (2010). Pros and Cons of Online Education. [Website]. Retrieved from http://www.ies.ncsu.edu/successes/research-and-white-papers/pros-and-cons-of-online-education
Morgan, K. (2006). Ground Rules in Online Discussions: Help or Hindrance?. [Website]. Retrieved from http://www.uwyo.edu/learn/_files/docs/brownbag_docs/onlinediscussions.pdf
Shorter, C. (2011). Guidelines for Effective Online Discussions. [Website]. Retrieved from http://academictech.doit.wisc.edu/blogs/learnuw/guidelines-effective-online-discussions
Unknown. (2013). Instructional Strategies (PIDP 3250). Website. Retrieved from http://www.vcc.ca/programs-courses/college-course.cfm?prog_id=97&crs_id=3250&div_id=8