Friday, May 20, 2011

ID and Educator's Role in Online Learning Part 1

As a certified Quality Matters peer reviewer, I was following the QM thread on online facilitation and teacher engagement in a community board. It brought me back to those days when online learning was just a buzzword. I'd taken ID courses and read quite a bit initially due to my professional interest. I'd even advocated for workshops on facilitating online learning (inspired by a terrific book by Collison et. al) to my boss. Little wonder that I was fascinated by the discussion  in the QM community. The debate on TD (transactional distance) is intriguing. Kay Shattuck, the director of QM, shared some research from various perspectives - Vandergrift, Anderson, Garrison etc. Research, of course, thus far, is inconclusive.

Take these as my evolving thoughts. I've been ruminating about the significance of instructional design vs. the teacher's/educator's role for a while since my Research Apprenticeship study. I've also watched people who weren't trained in ID succeed in instruction way better than those who were. They have a compelling way of teaching. It seems to boil down to delivery which is influenced by teacher characteristics like teacher experience (leading to effective improvisational teaching) and positive affective learning climate supported by the teacher. I've also read bell hooks' amazing book on Teaching to Transgress and couldn't agree more that it takes collective effort to make learning exciting. I don't question which is significant, rather which appears to be more influential most of the time. To me, the teacher holds the key to success in learning: he/she is the instructional designer and delivers the instruction. I definitely think that faculty development or teacher ed is extremely important. I must state outright that the processes of teaching and learning are very complex. I am not demeaning any particular field or discipline by stating that any factor is more important.

With regards to F2F vs Online Learning (OL), I can't say it better than Mike Scheuermann, Associate VP of Instructional Technology Support at Drexel U on LinkedIn when he wrote that "F2F vs. OL is NOT the issue - it is simply not the venue that determines the meaningful learning experience. Instead, it is and always will be - the instructor/facilitator. -- A great teacher can make a bad (or mediocre) course great!" On the other hand, "a mediocre educator cannot make a great course - a great course."

What is critical is channeling resources and efforts to support and enhance how educators function in all learning spaces. [Think Richard Clark, it is not so much the media that makes the difference!]

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