(…or “It’s All Fracking Online!!!”)
I was looking over the session schedule for the SLOAN-C Conference on Online Learning and was a bit disappointed in what I saw. Here, as in elsewhere throughout the blogosphere and more importantly the mainstream education journals, one sees the term “online learning” continually bantered around. Yet, it is a term with fuzzy edges – a term that continues to evolve. While I am sure many very good presentations will occur at the SLOAN-C Conference, it appears that many will involve someone with a deck of powerpoint slides lecturing to a “class” on approaches to online learning. How ironic is THAT?!? Some appear to be taking the square peg of online learning and trying to jam it into their existing classroom structure with which they are comfortable. I must admit that the K12Online Conference was much more cutting edge than anything showing up in SLOAN-C’s conference, for the very reason that K12Online is adopting and modeling the practices being discussed.
We are at an interesting juxtaposition in the evolution of online learning. After a century of little real change in classroom teaching (college lecture halls of 2008 look little different from college lecture halls of 1908), we now have tools and capabilities to actually teach and learn in new ways. Economic, administrative and social pressures are pushing faculty to consider transitioning some or all of their courses online. Students are looking for the 24/7 access to learning that they experience in their social lives. The early adopters have already made the transition, but the majority of faculty are hesitant. Some maintain that online learning is inferior to their established classroom approach. Yet, as Douglas Johnson noted in “Towards a Philosophy of Online Education” in David Brown’s (2003) Developing Faculty to Use Technology:
“Critics are already lamenting what is lost, particularly from interpersonal relations in the classroom, but the real test of online education will be what on balance is gained.”
To better understand what could be gained, one has to first define online learning.
Google defines it as follows:
Definitions of online learning on the Web:
If you check “online learning” in Wikipedia, it redirects you to “Electronic Learning.” But it seems to me that this is too limiting, as are the ones above. My colleagues have heard me on a variety of occasions say it’s all fracking online when hit with these limitations. It is limiting to me to simply equate online learning with distance education or worse, with electronic correspondence courses. Online learning is more than just one’s PLE/PLN. We seem to be fighting whether to equate it to a formal class taught via the internet or to serendipitous learning while surfing the web. To me, online learning is an interactive medium that applies equally to totally online courses and totally on campus courses. Just as students need oxygen and food to grow and nourish, so too do they now need the internet – as do their faculty.
My job title is “Online Learning Specialist” so I certainly have biases. I have taught online for a dozen years, and so see this topic through my own filters. I would hope that by stating my biases, we can start a conversation with others. I am interested in where you think I am on target and where I need better focus.
- I believe that online learning involves the use of the internet to promote interactive learning experiences for both students and faculty, independent of distance, time and place.
- I believe that online learning is not about the technology, it is about how the technology is leveraged to facilitate the learning. (Thanks to Bud Deihl for helping shape this one)
- I believe that online learning uses all of the seven principles of good practice first espoused by Chickering and Gamson in 1987.
- I believe that online learning is active, learning-centered, and associated with the higher order thinking skills of Bloom’s Taxonomy.
- I believe that online learning expands the walls of the classroom to incorporate global resources available anytime and anyplace.
- I believe that online learning is not individualistic, it is the result of participation in a community of learners.
- I believe that online learning is metacognitive and reflective in nature.
- I believe that online learning involves mutliple senses and learning styles.
- I believe that online learning shatters the concept of seat time and is focused on learning outcomes.
- I believe that online learning does not just happen. It is the result of hard work and good teaching.
Our students increasingly turn to the internet for answers to their questions as they arise. They are buying mobile cellular technology that increasingly provides capabilities and capacity to integrate the web into their daily lives…and into their learning if we also adopt these processes. It is time for our classes to reflect this changing world, and that suggests new ways of teaching. Putting our powerpoints up in a learning management system is not online learning. I would like to refine the discussion about what is….and how it should shape our teaching.
Be interested in your thoughts.