Link: Online learning metaconversation

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few weeks about how to help students transition more effectively to online learning. Obviously this is a topic on the minds of many teachers and professors this year.

I was pointed to a post where Martin Weller reacts to some conversations he’s seeing in his Ed Techie blog: “It’s forever 1999 for online learning critics”.

Online and distance learning does generally require more self-motivation from the learner, away from the physical cues that prompt learning. It also requires more organization of their time and study environment and so retention may always be an issue compared to f2f. But it also offers opportunities for other forms of teaching. The least interesting thing you can do is replicate the not very effective model of the lecture. We had these discussions back in 1999, and people explored problem based learning, constructivism, collaborative learning, and then later connectivism and flipped learning. I’m not proposing any one of these approaches as a magic bullet, and some students will like them and others hate them. But different approaches are achievable and have been realised for a long time. Just because you’ve been dumped off your lectern and feel aggrieved, is no need for another ‘online learning sucks’ hot take.

I appreciated the (short) comments section on the post, where a commenter made the point that most students have spent more than a dozen years in classrooms learning how to learn. Obviously a shift to online interactions will seem difficult because it is easy to forget how much time students have spent learning to learn in classroom settings.

I find when we teach laboratory sections that many students have a difficult time adjusting to this form of learning. Many are more comfortable sitting back and listening to a teaching assistant, and are hesitant to step forward and explore materials with their hands.

Online learning does sometimes put students into a more comfortable place for exploration. They do not have to explore while other students are watching them. Some of the social fear of making a mistake is taken away. But the obvious problem for a biological anthropology course is that the physical materials are really important for learning. We have to think about the ways that students can learn to do science that do not depend so strongly on handling bones, casts, and other objects first-hand.