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.
Keep up the good work!