Tag Archives: asynchronous discussion

one last thing

this semester I started using Blogs @ Baruch for my class.

Each student needs to write one post regarding the reading and must write two comments.

THey also write by hand in a notebook which I call the Reading Journal. It is very itneresting that although they could be writing the same things in both medias, they don’t. The written by hand pages don’t ‘dare’ to do out of the box… they write very squarish things.

On the other hand in the blog posts the students ‘dare’ to say they dislike the reading, or how they find it. I have also seen that they respond to each other, they help each other out like when we were reading poetry and one student complained how hard it was and how she didn’t understand anything, another student commented on how she could approach it in another way, what she could do to find it easier…

ok, that’s it. too much commenting.


Taking online classes: sweet dream or terrible nightmare?

Has anyone ever taken an online class? I did. And my teacher was definitely not Bill Pelz. The class was on using Geometry Sketchpad Software to teach Trigonometry and Calculus courses. Some of the rules introduced by Pelz applied to that course – we (the students) did most of the work and we had to find and discuss web resources.  I however, felt like I could have completed the course by reading a book and following the steps of using the software myself. Every week we had to complete a project using sketchpad software, and write a reflection on how we could use the activity in our class (teaching high-school or college) and what were the advantages of using that particular activity – focusing on pedagogy rather than content. The class discussion felt forced, and the comments seemed like they were taken straight from a math textbook – teacher edition. After two weeks, when people noticed that the professor’s only involvement in the class discussion was writing a one- or two-word comment, like “great”, “good” or “interesting idea”, the discussion got even more artificial and useless. Spending a lot of time completing the software assignments, no one felt like discussing the supposed future advantages of using them. Reading Pelz I was wondering what could have been done differently that would improve that course. At the end of the day, the goal of the course was to learn how to use the Software – so maybe we could have had discussions based on our difficulties with working with the Sketchpad, or even discussing any other possibilities of using it, and trying it for something else. The course was offered at Berkley and if it wasn’t online I could not have done it for obvious reasons.  I received credits for taking it that I could add to my professional development requirements. Other than that I considered this course a waste of time, but I get that the course was bad was not because it was on online course, but because the instructor did not use effective online pedagogy.

On a different note, I loved Pelz’s principles (I use some of them in my F2F classes). But the one I would like to try (maybe next semester, or maybe we should try something similar in our ITP2 class?) would be the idea on collaborating the research paper. Using each other for resources, ideas and constructive criticism is what learning should be all about.

Talking about differences and advantages over one style of learning (or teaching) over the other (F2F vs DL) we all are aware of the obvious ones: saving time on a commute vs contact with real people, etc. What I found interesting was what Ugoretz said about asynchronous discussion. Being able to pause the conversation to go and look for other resources, formulate better arguments and to create new ideas without worrying about running out of class time is definitely one of the biggest advantages of online learning.

Effective teaching and learning online: Is it all about time?

What are the advantages that online teaching and learning have over traditional face-to-face educational experiences?

Think of five answers. How many of these have to do with time?

Most of the specific advantages I can think of (out of the blue or taken from this week’s readings) can be reduced to one common denominator: The online environment alters the temporal aspect learning in a way that’s beneficial to the learner. In my opinion, the traditional classroom environment can make learning an isolated act—you spend two hours one or two days per week learning something in class and then you mostly forget about it for the next six days. By removing the physical constraints of classroom learning, the online environment allows learning to take place continuously.

In Joseph Ugoretz’s article “Two Roads Diverged in a Wood”: Productive Digression in Asynchronous Discussion he analyzes the value of digression in learning and discusses how online learning can allow for students to gain the benefits of digression via asynchronous discussion. In this case, the online environment not only provides the necessary time for the discussion to take place (something a limited class period can’t afford) but the prolonged nature of asynchronous discussion gives students time to digest what’s been presented, reflect on it, perhaps check some sources, and then offer a thoughtful contribution.

In Bill Pelz’s article (My) Three Principles of Effective Online Pedagogy he offers insight into effective online pedagogy from his own teaching experiences. The three principles that he offers are essentially (1) stay out of the spotlight and let students do the work of learning, (2) encourage interaction among learners, and (3) maintain a presence in the online learning environment. I think the first two are sound principles in any environment, but in practice may be difficult to implement in limited face-to-face interactions. An online environment, however, increases opportunities to put these principles into practice by allowing the possibility of extended student-student and student-instructor interactions. While this article is more advice for educators (rather than an analysis of online learning), the principles it promotes are taking advantage of the continuous learning experience made possible in an online environment (rather than taking advantage of some other unique dimension of online learning).

For me, time is a central theme in both of these articles. I know that the advantages of online learning are not all about time (I appreciate the point brought up by Joe in the cac.o.phony discussion on the CUNY IT Conference that “…the fa [fully-asynchronous] environment gives students a chance to construct an identity based on their knowledge and thinking–and their communication of ideas–without any barriers or prejudices which might arise (and often do) in the face-to-face classroom.”), so what is it that makes online teaching and learning special? Should online teaching and learning be promoted as just a convenient alternative to traditional face-to-face environments? Or, is there a more fundamental difference with online learning that should be recognized and form the basis for developing effective online learning and teaching practices? With online teaching and learning, are we just gaining time? Or, are we gaining something else that just doesn’t exist in the traditional classroom?