Synchronous (i.e. Connect) vs. asynchronous tools (Forums): Which is better at fostering online learning? Why? What are your reasons and evidence for this?
Although I think that both have value… for fostering online learning, I feel that synchronous tools provides a richer experience of learning, but… this could be skewed unless there is a participatory need to be involved. Synchronous learning allows a learner to hear the spoken word vs just reading about them. Using ones voice there is a level of connection which can be achieved. Does being “live” in a synchronous class actually mean being “present”? Being there in person, does not always equate to a level of discourse. Of course there is a level of immediacy and spontaneity… conversations and discussions.
One thing that I have noticed in both synchronous and asynchronous is the ability to drive the conversation and effective discourse. Personally, I think this means asking the right questions to get more than a yes/no answer. Veerman, Andriessen, & Kanselaar (2000) noted the importance of consensus building. You want a consensus built, but arriving at consensus isn’t always pretty. I have found that there is still this view of choosing words – although painful, I want someone to say “I don’t agree” and let’s discuss. Stewart, Harlow, & DeBacco explored students’ experiences through a research study – a few points which I agree: “learning is a social practice” and social theory of learning and the need to integrate social participation as a process of learning and knowing. I look forward to more discussion about these topics. I am of the camp that synchronous “works”.
A.L Veerman, J.E.B Andriessen, G Kanselaar, Learning through synchronous electronic discussion, Computers & Education, Volume 34, Issues 3–4, 1 April 2000, Pages 269-290, ISSN 0360-1315, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0360-1315(99)00050-0.
Stewart, A. R., Harlow, D. B., & DeBacco, K. (2011). Students' experience of synchronous learning in distributed environments.Distance Education, 32(3), 357-381.
Attempting to answer the following:
“Why have we moved so many courses online? As students, do you feel like online courses are as good as face-to-face courses? What are the major differences between online and FTF courses for you as a student? Whether you have taught one or not, what do you think the differences are for the instructor? How do we know if the formats require different skills or result in different learning outcomes? Do we?”
Why online? Time. Cost. Flexible. Connected. Currency. Equity. Impersonal. Structure. Convenience. Disconnection. Routine. These are just a few of the words that pop into my head when I think of online learning, but does I left one out — easy. Although these words all “work” in an online environment, do they equate to ease? I don’t think so. Sure I love the flexibility of online learning, but one of the largest obstacles which causes me the most stress in an online learning is the ease. It is easy to put off readings, easy to put off assignments, easy to fall out of routine, easy to not be motivated. These are all things that have happened to me at one point or another and I bet it happens to everyone who has ever learned online.
I believe that there is an approach that both the learner and instructor must take in online learning. Are instructors prepared to take the same information and “make it different”. Fortunately for me, I have had more instructors who have realized there is a difference and made it work. For the learner, the way to approach has to also change. Sure you can connect with those people from a variety of locations, but does that make it better… or worse? I know for me, I strive hard to make sure that if placed in groups, I work hard to make sure I am attentive to the needs of my fellow classmates. Sure I work well under pressure and it forces me into a mode of reflection and review, but what about my classmates? Does online learning force us to be something we are not? I am not looking for regurgitation of material in the form of a powerpoint with added audio. I want discourse – stretching my own thoughts, pairing it with my own experiences and culminating with a valuable learning experience. I want the “oh wow” feeling and the sense of accomplishment by getting from one point to another with the help and support of my instructor and fellow classmates.
Some questions I hope to answer this semester is how I can be better prepared to teach online while identifying the same things that cause me the most stress as a student and well, be a better online learner.