Sunday, May 15, 2011

Online Learning is so much more than a PowerPoint with Audio!

Part II

PowerPoint with audio represents the traditional learning model of the top down approach. It is a one dimensional learning tool where information flows from instructor to participant, requiring the participant to memorize and possibly demonstrate their learning in a form of a test or paper.  How can we ensure that online students are motivated to learn? The benefit of a face-to-face environment is that instructors can physically see if a participant does not show up or is distracted or disinterested.  I believe to retain online students, we need to consider motivation.  

Yes, we can have excellent course content and visual presentation but that doesn’t ensure that an instructor is engaging and motivating participants. We must also include a cooperative format to increase motivation and retention. Collaborating on assignments, peer reviewing and discussion forums are just a few ideas that instructors can incorporate into their programs to increase motivation.

1.       Collaborating on assignments is a great method to enhance learning because it offers opportunities for participants to hear other points-of-view and to learn how to combine these into a final product. Working together with people who have different perspectives is a real-life skill, adding value for participants. One of the keys to success of this activity would be to discuss methods and problems of collaboration beforehand.
2.       Peer reviewing provides an additional technique for hearing diverse perspectives and can stimulate new ideas. This allows participants to gain new information, enhancing their own work. They will also learn the valuable skill of giving and receiving constructive feedback before editing and turning in their assignments. Peer review improves communication skills and increases motivation to learn.
3.       Discussion forums are excellent places for allowing participants to demonstrate critical thinking skills and to develop relationships with fellow members. They get the opportunity to be reflective by reading other perspectives and carefully considering a response. It gives a tool for active participation in the program without having to feel the overwhelming anxiety of everyone’s “eyes on them”. Participants can have more conversations in discussion forums than they can have in a large lecture hall thereby increasing in-depth learning.

Incorporating these three elements can create positive growth. A sense of community is established through a sense of cohesion, trust is built, critical thinking skills are enhanced through questioning and a general sense that the program is valuable an applicable is created. Continuing to use a PowerPoint only ensures a one dimensional and isolated learning experience and will most likely not encourage in-depth learning.