I am once again feeling inspired as an online educator. Much like many University faculty, I am spending the early weeks in December, collecting final papers and assignments, hunkering down in a comfy spot and grading. Grading is, for me, the least rewarding part of being a teacher. Luckily, my students this semester are making it worth my time. I have asked students in my Disabilities in Society course to demonstrate their learning by writing a ‘summary of learning.’ In addition to summarizing their learning they are asked to identify five meaningful pieces of content or activities from the semester that impacted their learning. Not only does this provide me with the opportunity to better understand how they see their learning, it also provides insight into how deeply they engaged with the material in the course. Surprisingly, many students have also chosen to comment on the mode of instruction. The fact that they see the mode in which they learned as a contributing factor is fascinating to me. It indicates that they are not only thinking about what they learned, but how they learned. This online course is designed to be highly interactive using tools such as Voicethread, G+ Community and video to help students connect to one another and the content. Who knows why they chose to do this, but their insights provide a great data point for me about the possibilities in online learning. Below are just a few of the numerous comments that stood out to me.
“I felt that this (voicethread) was a very important part of class because it brought the class together to share thoughts and ideas on the subject. I find even in classes where you are physically present you do not always participate with others inside class. I have gone whole course semesters without talking to a single person about the course material or anything in the class. I feel this technique of having Voice Threads is incredibly crucial to an online class. The idea of getting the class together to discuss topics and their ideas is very important. The Voice Threads provided an area where we as students and our instructor could get together and discuss the issues and learn off each other. I feel that in all classes not just subject to online courses it is important to get the group involved on the issues and course work. This would better provide students and the instructors the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the content of the course.”
“The fifth activity that was important was the voice threads. These were incredibly important because it was where most of our information was summed up. It also allowed all of the classmates to interact with each other and share opinions. I particularly like the voice threads because we had a few options to respond via text, voice or video. Also the way the voice thread was set up allowed me to take notes on slide but also participate in my own time manner. The hard thing with lectures in person is that the teacher either goes very fast or conversation goes off topic. The voice thread allowed us to all stay on topic and get to the underlying questions. Lastly, every voice thread was accessible at all times. This was very important to go back and find out information.”
“Individuals with disabilities is a class that I have enjoyed and learned a lot from. It is the most interactive online class I have ever taken using Google plus, emails, videos, Voicethreads and fishbowls to help engage all of the students. Usually when you take an online class, I never even know what the teacher looks or sounds like, let along what all of the other students look like.”
“I never expected to receive such a deep understanding of disabilities from an online class.”
With that, I will close the semester feeling successful as an online educator.
**This is a post from December 2013, repurposed for this blog.