Monday, January 20, 2014

Virtual Education Students: Breaking Bad Habits and Stimulating New Habits:Part II

If we come back to the question of what we expect of students in an online education environment we find that it is intimately connected to the question of what we expect of ourselves as educators in an online environment.

The student needs to know that his or her instructor is going to provide lessons that will bring out their best effort and quality work. It starts by being very clear on the quality of the work you expect from the student and to give the student examples of what good quality looks like in an online environment. One of the best methods used in brick and mortar schools has been the use of exemplars that have been carefully chosen as to reflect different levels of performance. The problem arises when this is not done on a consistent basis or the choices made are confusing. The nature of assignments given in various subject matter in brick and mortar schools provides for a variety opportunities to develop and disseminate exemplars. So, what does this look like in an online education system where both staff and students work not from textbooks but instead have access to the resources on the world wide web? It depends on the educator and his or her ability to create lessons that incorporate the use of YouTube videos, multimedia presentations, real time guest speakers, virtual field trips, collaborative group work using groups made up of students from all parts of the globe gathered together to debate an issue or work on real time problems. It depends on the educator to define a high international standard agreed upon by the international community with the understanding that effective global citizenship is a goal that leads to a healthy global future. It depends on the educator designing lessons that high light the higher cognitive skills of analysis, synthesis, evaluation.

 How is the educator able to accomplish all of this? The educator has to be very comfortable with coordinating and selecting concepts and ideas from a variety of disciplines, using a variety of methods and then bringing this all to focus on the essential concepts and conclusions you want the student to come away with. One indication of the effectiveness of what you have done is if the student experiences what I call the "WOW" effect. That means that they want to ask more questions about what they have learned, they want to debate points that have been made, they want to know where on the Internet they need to go to explore what they have learned even further. This is "thoughtful engagement" by the student and it is something that every online educator needs to foster in their teaching online. Educators need the combination of their own experience and understanding of students and their own ingenuity in creating challenging, demanding, surprising, inspiring lessons that will say to the student that what we are doing in the online environment is not "more of the same" that unfortunately they may have been exposed to in the brick and mortar school systems.
The good habits for students in an online environment can only be fully realized if the educator takes a good look at his or her own bad online habits and transforms them into something that their students can emulate.

Next....what about assessment in the online environment?

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