Thursday, April 24, 2014

Developing New Online Pedagogies: The Time Portal-Introduction


In dealing with the online environment and education, we are faced with the challenging questions:

  1. Do the pedagogies that we employ in the brick and mortar school work well in the online education environment?
  2. If we simply transfer our pedagogies to the online education environment, are we making full use of the resources that the "web" has to offer for design of courses?
  3. Do we achieve the desired "thoughtful engagement" from students in what is taught over the long term?
Before we can even begin to approach these questions, we need to make sure that when we are talking about pedagogy that we are all talking about the same thing. Phylise H. Banner in her blog post entitled: "The Pedagogy of Learning Design: A Translation of Pedagogies" defines what we are talking about and list some essential elements. In the realm of education, the word pedagogy is used when talking about this designed approach to instruction and the alignment of learning elements such as objectives, content, activities, and assessments. She suggested that we need to focus on three key elements in effective e-learning: social presence, teaching presence, and cognitive presence.

Social presence focuses on creating a welcoming setting that is open and inviting so that our learners will want to engage with each other, the facilitator, and the learning content. Social presence is fostered by activities, methods, or approaches put in place to break the ice, build trust, and facilitate interaction with those around you.
  Teaching presence focuses on three major functions that we take on as training and learning professionals: design, facilitation, and direction of the learning experience. We build teaching presence by designing learning events that guide participants through learning materials, reinforce key concepts, foster critical thinking skills, provide opportunities for formative feedback and support, and evaluate progress throughout the learning experience.

  Cognitive Presence focuses on critical thinking skills. We want our learners to be active learners – to be actively integrating key concepts into their own worlds, exploring related resources, and adding new ideas and new knowledge. Cognitive presence is, in essence, the scaffolding of learning  as we move from the initial stages of knowledge and comprehension toward the critical learning stages of application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.  

 In looking at the possibility of developing new online pedagogies, I will suggest to you that the mere transference of the pedagogies that we have been accustomed to in the brick and mortar school to the online education environment is not enough. We have rich resources for online course design on the web. New pedagogies are needed to ensure lasting thoughtful engagement in online education courses. We need to grow new pedagogies that better reflect a new environment.

Credit: CLUC

Over the next few posts, I would like to describe to you how we can create a new pedagogy that is in synch with an environment that is different from the brick and mortar school environment. In doing so, I will use as an example an online course on World History which is a topic I am quite familiar with.

The first element of pedagogy I would like to look at is the transformation of online collaborative discussion. Online collaborative discussion as it exists in many e-learning organizations suffers from the following problems:
  • It is hard to get students to gather for an online discussion at the same time because they are at different stages in the course offering
  • Online collaborative discussion areas are not effectively moderated by the teacher 
  • Discussion parameters are not clearly defined or explained to students. The topics chosen are not engaging.
  • Students are not held accountable for their participation in any relevant fashion
  • Online collaborative discussion are not flexible enough to allow for creative thinking
You can probably add more to the list. The problems experienced in such groups mirror the problems with collaborative discussion in the brick and mortar school environment. Some of this is due to the fact that this type of activity has been simply transferred without much thought or modification into an online environment.

Some of Phylice's ideas on the translation of pedagogies can be found at the following address:

Next post: The Time Portal--Approach to Collaborative Online Discussion


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