I’m not comfortable with online classes. Shouldn’t they be more like face-to-face courses?
“No!” I respond. An online course is everything your inner scholar wants in a college course. Repetition, your own pace, structured and recorded interaction, and second-by-second tracking. Even in 2015 with 20-something students, it is still a hard sell. They sit resistant along with other more tech-phobic or face-time-reliant students. On the other hand, students who are trying to make the real-world mesh with school are usually less likely to put up a fuss. The difference is that the former has nurtured a “tell me what to do” posture of learning along with a dependence on the physical teacher as authority. The latter has a more open “provide instructions” posture that utilizes resources beyond the teacher to develop competence.
Changing Your Learning Posture
Learning is about outcome and process, but also form and art. The ability to create is both knowing the script and knowing how and when to adlib. Typical education is preoccupied with the outcome by controlling the process. This is contrary (overly simplistic) to education and how learning happens.
Knowing what the teacher wants and doing what the teacher wants may result in kudos from the teacher, but the same can be accomplished without learning.
Education is life-changing because of the process of interaction and networking, the outcome arrived at from different processes, a script produced based on the activity explaining for others how the outcome was reached, and the resulting adlibs created in the discussion of varied approaches.
Most students who are uncomfortable with online courses, if honest, would admit that they want the flexibility of a live teacher versus the cold indifference of the computer. They want the interaction among classmates who understand and can rephrase in a common language outside the academic speak. They want the forgiveness of attempting the task again and again for mastery. They want the freedom from time limits and the pressure of the pacing of others. This is what a well-designed course provides. Even if it’s not well-designed, you can create the supports.
1. Focus on Outcomes: What am I learning?
As opposed to time controls and individual assignments. Give yourself the freedom to explore the subject of the course. Create your own goals within the framework of the course.
2. Seek out In-person Coaches
Never focus your complete achievement proposition on the lessons, the teacher, or the materials provided for the class. Engage with people who will check in on you individually and frequently.
3. Know your Limits and Triggers
If you are not creative, find training for creativity and flexibility in learning approaches. Intelligence is the ability to entertain ambiguity. Become comfortable with not knowing long enough to find the answer and make new connections.
4. Use the Tools
The computer provides vast knowledge, connections, animation, individual tracking, and feedback. Use the data that is being collected about you and improve your process formatively each data cycle.
5. Solve Problems
Get away from education in a box. Never “do schoolwork.” Conceptualize all assignments as project-based and problem-based tasks. Connect it to a real-world activity. Make it real and purposeful even if that means extending the task.