No matter how you slice it, online learning is different. Yes, there are definite similarities between a traditional f2f classroom and an online learning environment; yep, a f2f teacher and an online teacher must focus on a lot of the same things. But when it comes to the skill set required for success, dispositions, level of commitment and motivation, etc., online learning mimics the f2f classroom in fairly limited ways, especially when one considers the requirements from a credit recovery student's perspective.
My first "life" (and primary love) as an educator was/is as a high school English language arts teacher. During my decade in the classroom, I was able to cajole more than a few reluctant learners to successfully pass classes they may not have otherwise; a handful even liked the classes, some of the text that was strategically and ever-so-carefully selected just for them, and a few of the writing assignments that they were coached through with me at their elbow day after day. HOW to recreate this environment of unending, personalized, just-in-time support for EACH and EVERY learner in an online classroom continues to keep me up at night. Is it possible? I know it is, as we have had students in my school district who have been successful in completing online credit recovery courses when they were unsuccessful with the same course in a f2f classroom sometimes two or three times over. Too, I have learned a great deal this semester from Nicole as she has talked about ways she supports her online learners. She seems to have figured out a lot about how to really engage students in a learning environment very different from the traditional classroom to which I am accustomed.
I want our course to be rigorous and ensure students have mastered the standards. I also want it to be accessible, appropriate, and do-able for students who may lack the literacy skills we expect at the high school level.
On the other side of the student coin is me: An adult online learner trying to balance a full-time job, family responsibilities and stresses, a home, lots of work-related travel in the last few weeks, professional meetings that have kept me at the office until waaaay after the "contract day," and a tremendously busy time of year in terms of my job...with my responsibilities as an online learner in this asynchronous class with lots of synchronous obligations...and two other online grad-level classes, as well. The first few weeks were fine...and then things started to pick up on every front. The last couple of weeks have felt so overwhelming as I have tried to keep up with what's going on online while maintaining ALL of the other offline responsibilities. When something has to take the back burner, I have allowed it to be my classes. As an undergrad and when I was working on my Masters program, I would never, ever let my classes take a back seat. But that was back when my classes were my job. They were my primary "work." They were #1 on my list of things to do every single day. Those days are gone, I guess.
I really appreciated Michael's reflection this week, as he, too, noted the empathy he feels for his students as he tries to balance personal and professional life with the responsibilities of an online adult learner. Those for whom I hope I contributed at least a little this week were the folks on the ELA team, as our team Skype meeting was rich in terms of conversation and decisions...but also feels SO overwhelming. This week's reading noted that online classes are often more time consuming than f2f classes. I would argue that online classes requiring extensive group projects are even more time consuming! I commented on a few blog posts this week and hope I contributed some ideas to colleagues, or at least made them consider things they may not have otherwise; and I sincerely appreciate the folks who commented on my blog post and made me think twice about supports for students and teachers. And, finally, because my own reflection this week is being posted 12 hours late, it prompts me to think about online learning, in general, and the flexibility we want it to have while still providing learners with deadline-driven structure to keep learners on the same page.
Ohhh, so much to think about....