Each week I am required to write a post for my EDUC 5105 class, so I thought I would take the time to reflect on the “Deja Vu All Over Again” lecture I attended via work.
Presented by Dr. Walter Peace, the lecture dealt with the creation of an online course. Having taught a Regional Geography of Canada course over 52 times, with an estimated 11,500 students, he always has done it in a traditional face-to-face manner.
However, he has just converted the face-to-face Regional Geography course to be a completely online course, and has done so with assistance of the Ontario Online Initiative grant. Initial enrollment is 100 students, and the class launched in April of 2014.
As he talked about the course, he mentioned that he has been more particular about the learning outcomes versus the face-to-face course. By the end of the course, the students will have an understanding of the following:
- Define Canada’s regions in terms of their histories and current issues
- Identify Canada’s essence
- Describe geography’s role in defined Canada’s identify
- Apply geospatial literacy to geographical information
- Demonstrate the importance of maps
Course content has been revised and updated for the online delivery (though this would have been done regardless). The course is delivered through McMaster University’s “Avenue to Learn” service (D2L), and has implemented a number of media assents to enhance learning.
- Audio is supplemented with images
- A chatroom is present
- An online discussion board
- He has made personalized videos
- Holds virtual office hours
- Has a number of online quizzes and tests
With all this, they have employed a course coordinator who acts as a TA and looks after the technical aspects of the course.
When designed the course, they made the effort to not have the professor appear that often in the videos, but instead use images to illustrate what his audio recordings stated. I though this went well with Mayer’s notion of dual-channel learning. (1)
Having now run the course for a year, he had several reflections.
- Course allows flexibility in time/work for students
- Decreases demands on classroom space and scheduling
The professor stated it does not make a difference for him, other than the fact he has had to wrap his mind around about “not going to class.”
- Students lack sense of community and connection with classmates (this is unsettling to the professor)
- Professor becomes more of a manager rather than a mentor.
- This mentorship role slowly no longer exists due to online courses
- Personal dimension of teaching is lost
- He feels the personal dimension is lost, but he feels that could only be him.
- Makes him feel uneasy.
- Can’t add personal, humorous touches
- He can’t illicit responses, pull reactions out of people
This idea that the personal touch is lost is something I have heard mentioned numerous times amongst colleagues. That said, I am not looking for a personal touch on an online course, and am often taking an online course so I can quickly learn the information without “fluff”.
As he continued, he said that there was high interest/demand in the course, so they raised the cap to 125 students. There has been positive student responses, and the only issues have been technical ones.
He mentioned that amongst educators, the perception exists that the course exists, you put it on Avenue (D2L), and you leave it there. This is not true. The course coordinator deals with it on an ongoing basis, and needs to update it when issues arise. I find this extremely true, as I personally have taken online classes that have just been “left there” and they have been awfully out of date.
He also mentioned that administration is surprised that they had to pay the Professor to teach the course. So the question he posed is, is this his course or the Universities? When he retires on July 1st, he wonders “does it stay with the department and can they continue providing the course?”
He concludes, and struggles with, the following:
- What do students want?
- What do administrators want?
- What do instructors want?
- What is ‘best’ for students, administrators, and instructors?
- This does not feel like his course or his students
- Who he is as an instructor is lost in the technology
- To teach is to communicate enthusiasm for learning; he believes he can do this better in person rather than online
Overall, it was an enlightening and very open presentation on his personal struggles with adapting to an online course. Given his own teaching philosophies, I think he would be best suited for a blended course, where he still was able to lecture and connect with student one-on-one. I’ll need to consider how an educators doesn’t get “lost in the technology”, and see if I can connect to students on a personal level if and when I ever run an online course.
Mayer, R. E. (2005). Cognitive theory of multimedia learning. The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning. [Google Books version]. Retrieved FMay 25, 2015 from http://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=duWx8fxkkk0C&oi=fnd&pg=PA31&dq=c ognitive+theory+of+multimedia+learning+1997&ots=x62jx2smdu&sig=_eB8RzXht2wn g95TyVatSVQ83U#v=onepage&q=cognitive%20theory%20of%20multimedia%20learning%201997 &f=true