Responses to Veronica, Ida, Sara: 9/13/13

Veronica, “My week 1 journey of discovery” (9/13/13).

My issue/question: One thing I’ve always had a problem with is whether I should really be marking their English in the report – is this really part of their SDL [self-directed learning]. Part of me says yes – they should learn/be able to express their reflections in decent English (the report constitutes 15% max. of the final SDL grade). But part of me says no – the language in the report (as long as I can understand what they’re trying to convey) has nothing to do with their SDL. I’d be really interested to hear your views on this bearing in mind that this is an EFL/ESP class.

Response: I like the way you’ve set off your key points in red. I also really like your question about what to mark up and what not to (and to what extent) — a constant issue with English and perhaps other teachers. My rough rule of thumb is to mark up when the goal is publication — in the student’s blog and possibly in course or campus journals. When the goal is interaction or communication related to the writing process, I don’t mark up. That is, I treat writing related to but outside the perimeters of the actual paper as “talk” about or for the paper and not the paper itself.

Refering to the article we should have read before this webinar – TB [Tony Bates]: Don’t take for granted that students have actually read through assigned materials or done tasks! Question: Should we then spend/waste time on going over it again? Will this not just encourage students NOT to prepare? Or is it a good revision activity?

Response: Good question! I’ve recorded the Bates webinar with plans to extract clips for a brief video of highlights for TOMOOC sharing, but it’s still sitting on my desktop. I’ve already published my take on the 9-steps article and am wondering if I should devote any more time to the video. The issue, for me, is information. What’s new? In her 9/13/13 blog post, “Week 1 Activity Reflection –,” Sara wrote, “While I didn’t necessarily find anything new in much of the information [in the various activities], I did discover that there was more research out there that I thought to back up what I already knew.” I feel the same way about the Bates info. Not enough that’s “new,” at least for me. I’ve also observed Bates at a recent (June 2013) conference

Ida Brandao, “MOOC How to Teach Online” (9/12/13).

I hope next webinars will be more interesting than those of this week. I think that they are too extensive and boring (my black hat). What was told in this first presentation could be reduced to a max. 15min long screencast. As for the blogging tools you get short tutorials in Youtube that are much more efficient to get you to the objective than a webinar of over 1 hour.

Response: I agree. As far as content delivery, these could have been remixed and repurposed for more efficient learning. However, my guess is that, for the MOOC planning team, these webinars are for more than just content. I think they want to create a “live” and more engaging learning environment, and by that they probably mean one that is as close to F2F seminars as possible. Thus, they’re placing a high premium on synchronous and real-time lectures and discussions.

The issue, as far as I’m concerned, is whether or not these “just like F2F” efforts are worthwhile in online courses. On the one hand, it may be necessary for those new to online learning who may need a familiar analog bridge from the old to the new. On the other, it seems to run counter to the anytime-anywhere digital world of virtual learning.

On yet another level, the issue is one of best practice. Are live webinars best practice for online learning? Put another way, is technical sophistication the end all? In other words, would a course (including MOOCs) be less without live webinars? From a purely technical perspective, the technology behind live webinars is complicated and not widely used by or accessible to classroom teachers. Thus, it’s cutting edge for those whose domain is technology. They see their task as demonstrating to the mass of teachers the technology that is still out of reach for most teachers. I’d probably feel as they do if I were an IT specialist.

This technology imperative is understandable, but it may sometimes be in conflict with what’s really best practice for online learning.

Sdreisbach (Sara) “Week 1 Activity Reflection –” (9/13/13).

I’m not sure I will make any changes.  At the school where I currently work we have a very strong online program that provides blank course shells to instructors.  This ensures that all students are getting the same information.  Because of this though, the instructor is actually more of a facilitator and many times is just grading assignments that have already been created for them.  The main thing I can do is present what I’ve learned to our designers and hope that they will incorporate some of these skills into the courses that they are designing.

Response: “Blank course shells” to ensure “that all students are getting the same information” and teachers “just grading assignments that have already been created for them” seems like a nightmare scenario for online teaching — at least to me. I wouldn’t want to, couldn’t, teach in an environment such as this. But then I realize that, perhaps for some teachers, this rote, linear, and formulaic approach to teaching is comforting and maybe even effective. Still, I really don’t think cookie-cutter course designing will work. This is just another version of teacher-proofing as so-called best practice, replacing variation with uniformity and reducing teacher to technician.

The problem centers on the nature of the course designing process. Maslow’s law of instrument seems applicable. If all the designer has is a one-size-fits-all solution, then every pedagogical problem will receive the same fix. In a word (and repeating what Bates says in his 9 steps), the design process must be flexible. Or put another way, the designer must be flexible — and the teacher, too.

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6 Responses to Responses to Veronica, Ida, Sara: 9/13/13

  1. Anonymous says:

    I found your post interesting and well researched. Your discussion on the need to master technology and value of the live webinar got me thinking.

    This MOOC has really welcomed all comers, many different blogs services and feeds. Is that a distraction? I know I am struggling trying to post comments. For example it has been my experience that many blogs have their own requirements in order to post a comments.

    Another perspective on the webinars is that they have been largely informal and questions are welcomed at any time. Similar to live class, the presentation is only as good as the questions asked. It is one step better than watching a recorded session or TED video because it is a chance for participants to engage each other.

  2. Veronica says:

    Thanks for again taking the time to share your thoughts with me/us, Jim. Re my first question – yes, I agree. Maybe I need to review whether the reflective report (in which I mark the language as well as content/task achievement) should in fact be part of the student’s SDL grade. In favour is the fact that the report is usually an enlightening (for the student) overall reflection on the process/outcomes of his/her SDL and hence a valuable task. But something still bugs me about it!

  3. Pingback: Teacher Response to Language in Student Writing: Implications for Online Courses | Jim's iFacilitate Blog

  4. Pingback: Value of TOMOOC Webinars? | Jim's iFacilitate Blog

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