Being a mentor in Alec Couros’ EC&I 831 online course is a wonderful opportunity to observe an open education classroom leveraging the potential of Internet in education. Back in 2008, I also had the opportunity to attend Stephen Downes and George Siemens’ mega-course on connectivism. I readily confess to being a lurker most of the time because of my passion for real time learning and learning communities! There is so much to observe in these non-traditional classes.
In Downes and Siemens’ course, there were so many people (about 2500!) and so many channels that you couldn’t really follow what was going on for individual participants. Alec’s class being much smaller (about 20) it is much easier to notice the relationships between students, their hard work and the way their network is evolving.
One thing that strikes me is the extent to which they are engaged. You know the usual “9 weekly hours of personal work” standard in most asynchronous online class, at least in graduate studies? I know just too well that the quicker you can get done with the assignments the better. Or, even worse from an educational perspective, you may just elect to postpone the whole thing till next week because it won’t make any difference anyway!
Well I strongly suspect that Alec’s students put in a lot more hours than officially required yet they don’t seem to notice it, let alone complain. Creative juices are just flowing! Thanks to their blogs, tweets, course productions, interaction with peers and class meetings in synchronous mode, they have a strong online presence. They are definitely developing sought-after skills in today’s workplace and their accounts of trials and errors and personal discoveries are quite refreshing.
One student mentioned over the weekend that they had not reached a high level of trust among participants yet. Is the trust-building process any different in the face-to-face classroom? I don’t think so. It takes time to build trust and feel comfortable interacting in a perceived “safe” environment. In this case, I do believe that the synchronous component of the course and the dialogue stemming from the social media interaction are key to those students engagement and that they will also foster a trustful environment in time – not an easy undertaking when your course is basically open to the whole planet. Well done all!
I would certainly love to get some students’ feedback on this!