Online learning in real time

Last night, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend Dr Alec Couros’ online class (on social media and open ed #eci831) on Elluminate. About twenty graduate students and their mentors, some joining in from as far as Egypt and Mexico gathered in a virtual classroom for discussion and interaction. Yesterday’s guest was Dr Richard Schwier and he did a great job in engaging people to reflect on instructional design and technology and learning communities.

Alec’s students are very lucky. They literally have the privilege to participate in a “learning happening” thanks to real-time learning. Detractors of online learning in synchronous mode often raise the schedule and time zone issues. Well it seems that if you are really engaged, you work your schedule accordingly. Personally, being from Atlantic Canada, I had to login at 10:00 pm, the same for Dave Cormier. I was sick and I spent the evening trying to stay awake for class. I just “showed up” with the intent of attending the first half hour. Guess what? I ended up staying the whole session.

I was very pleased to see people interacting in such a meaningful way. They don’t always agree, mind you, and that’s the beauty of it. Rich dialogue is based on respect and diversity. But they feel safe to express their opinion. While I joined for the first last night as a mentor, students have been working together for the last few weeks and clearly, the foundations of a vibrant learning community are in place.

Online learning in real time is so valuable from an educational perspective. In terms of immediacy, community participants receive direct feedback from their peers and their questions are answered on the spot. In terms of support, they benefit from the active presence, interaction and engagement of all concerned. In terms of learning, they have access to “just-in-time” information – not just something that may have been “canned” a decade ago – plus they have the additional motivation of having to come to class well prepared. And the list goes on.

Should you want to learn more about real-time learning, I would recommend Jonathan Finkelstein’s Learning in Real Time. Blended online learning design (BOLD) is another good source of information.

Keep up the good work!

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3 Responses to Online learning in real time

  1. Liane Sousa says:

    Je vais répondre en français car ça va aller plus vite. Je pense que la technologie nous permet de diversifier les manières d’échanger, de collaborer, de se réseauter et d’apprendre. Mais les mentalités dans certaines Universités n’évoluent pas au même rythme que les besoins des apprenants. On dirait que tout l’éventail qui est maintenant offert par la technologie est vu comme étant une difficulté plutôt qu’une richesse. Je pense que les détracteurs du synchrone n’ont jamais expérimenté un Webinar ou une conférence en ligne, ils sont démunis face à la technologie. Bref, ils ne pensent qu’à avoir un retour sur l’investissement et dans bien des cas de s’accommoder derrière un contenu qui est figé et «canné». Ils se frottent les mains et disent c’est beau et en ligne. Le contenu vieillit et on ne s’occupe plus, on donne le cours à n’importe qui ( dans certains cas des gens qui ne sont pas experts en matière) et les travaux et examens et bien…c’est un étudiant engagé à un tarif étudiant qui va les corriger.
    J’ai vécu cette merveilleuse expérience et je peux dire que j’ai eu l’impression de me faire avoir, de me faire mal évaluer et pire encore d’avoir perdu et mon temps et mon argent. Les cours uniquement en asynchrone offrent des avantages bien évidemment, mais c’est dans la diversification des canaux de communication et des méthodes pédagogiques que nous sommes tous gagnants!

    • Thanks for your feedback Liane 🙂 You’re raising a good point: in some dual mode universities, technology-enhanced initiatives are perceived as a threat instead of an opportunity. In your opinion, detractors of synch learning have yet to experience a webinar or an online conference. They’re more preoccupied with the return on investment. You’re concerned with “canned” and outdated content and, having experienced poor asynch courses, you feel frustrated and truly believe in the diversity of channels and teaching methods.

  2. Thanks, Annie. It was great fun meeting with you in Alec’s class last night. I’m sure you noticed that the vibrancy came from the group, not me. That’s central to the notion of community, and a truly humbling–and terrifically exciting–thing when you’re in the middle of it. Good to meet you. I know you’ll have a great time with Alec!

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