” Are you designing the type of class you would enjoy and want to take?” Alec Couros
As I shared on the chat feed during last weeks class, I completed a post-diploma degree from Athabasca University,Canada’s Open University . Each of my ten classes through Athabasca were delivered in an asynchronous online method. If I was asked to reflect and think about the knowledge that I gained and how much I enjoyed those ten classes, I unfortunately wouldn’t have a lot of positive things to share with you all.
The online classes that I took from Athabasca University, served their purpose but were merely a means to an end for me. Each and every class consisted of reading chapters upon chapters of textbook and then writing paper after paper. Course content was basically regurgitated in the form of submitted papers via email, which were then graded by an instructor who I never had any contact or relationship with. Over the course of the four years that it took me to complete the program, I spoke with an instructor once after I painfully arranged a time to call her long distance and seek out clarification on an assignment. Most course facilitators would state they were available on a certain day of the week within a two hour window. In order to contact them during this time, you had to email in advance and set up an appointment. If a fellow student had already emailed and booked a phone conference in the time available, you were out of luck. Furthermore, I never communicated or corresponded with another student throughout my entire four years. I honestly believe I had no support, no one to bounce ideas off of, and no one to offer timely clarification; I had no community. This being said, the one thing I did have, was the opportunity to learn how to write a sound and technically correct APA paper……and we all know how important that is for a nurse! UGH!
The assigned readings this week discuss the importance of various components of successful online courses. Specifically, the creation of a virtual community is considered an important aspect of creating engaging, motivating and interesting classes. The articles this week discuss the fact that online course communities will emerge and foster effective learning “if learners are engaged with each other intentionally and collectively in the transaction or transformation of knowledge”. Furthermore, this weeks articles go on to explain that “an important over-arching principle to building a virtual learning community is to be deliberate, to think about and do things purposefully to foster community growth”. I now understand the feelings I have towards my past experiences with online learning as well as the importance of creating and fostering student community and collegiality. Athabasca claims it is a leader in distant and online learning. If this were true, I firmly believe after reflecting upon my own personal experiences as a Athabasca alumni and reading a few short articles about successful and essential components of online courses, that Athabasca should revisit and re-evaluate what it as an organization feels a leader in online education truly encompasses.
To foster a virtual community within our course prototype, Stephanie, Melinda and I have integrated interactive and engaging activities. We have included an icebreaker activity where students have to briefly introduce themselves via flip grid, animations, video’s, matching and true and false activities, and discussion posts. Furthermore, we have provided instructor access for assistance via Zoom US to allow for timely and personal support and guidance.
I believe the interactions we have chose to adopt in our course prototype will not only engage the learner but provide an opportunity for critical thought and demonstrate true understanding of course content versus regurgitation of course content via such assessment activities as APA paper submissions. It is our groups hope that the learning that would potentially take place by completing our pre- nursing course, Medical Terminology, would be meaningful through the delivery of engaging activities and a supportive community including that of the facilitator and fellow students.