I was shocked during a meeting with a school earlier this year when they revealed that the content of their online degree program consisted of a PowerPoint and an email address of the professor. Really?
A PowerPoint 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. Instructors cannot just translate their face-to-face teaching into an online program but must modify their teaching to the online environment. If the program only offers a static PowerPoint and no discussion, in-depth learning may not happen. My question then is why are a majority of our schools in higher education not including online learning communities, which are shown to improve socialization, critical thinking and retention, in their online classroom framework?
One way that schools and professionals can increase learning, retention and motivation is by utilizing communities of practice (COP) or online learning communities (OLC) to accomplish this. There are benefits of OLC’s and COP’s that need to be considered:
- OLC’s allow participants to construct new knowledge by interacting and building on each others ideas, allowing content to be better understood and retained longer.
- OLC’s improve teamwork skills by offering a collaborative environment to learn how to work in a group setting.
- OLC’s assist in developing critical thinking skills.
- OLC’s can increase interaction over face-to-face learning.
- OLC’s offer a connection to practice by connecting content to real-life situations.
- OLC’s offers peer-to-peer learning opportunities.
The learning that evolves from these communities is a collaborative effort which is often greater than any knowledge gained individually.