I have had the opportunity to take online courses in a few different education environments. Some tied in the use of technology into each course, some were little more than a webpage with the information of the week where you would upload the assignment. How the technology was implemented in each of these environments affected my learning and how I felt about the learning environment.
One of the most effective learning environments was when I attended AnimationMentor.com. The school used a mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning, combining multimedia and face-to-face learning. The technology used in the program allowed the mentor to critique a student animation work by using audio commentary and drawing on top of the video to add additional comments. Additionally, once a week the mentor would host a live video chat with all of the students where they could ask questions and get immediate feedback. This sort of social presence was an essential part of the framework which made the program work so well. Boettcher & Conrad (2010) state that one of the best practices, including a social presence and a teaching presence.
Technology was the part that made it possible for the students and teachers to be able to interact with each other. Usability and accessibility are an important aspect to this, if the student is not able to use the technology they will have difficulty interacting with the facilitator and other students and may become disengaged. Cooper et al. state that accessibility and usability are linked and the less accessible a resource is the less it will be used. I would have to agree with this.
Another course I took was for some travel agency training I took. The course relied on a few books that were sent to me and a web page. The web page consisted little more than a few sentences and a prompt for me to do some research in the books or online. While I did learn, there was very little interaction with the facilitator so I felt disengaged from the program.
I think the most appealing technology to me for online learning is that which will combine interaction with the facilitator and the other students and will otherwise engage learning in new and exciting ways. I just recently purchased a Virtual Reality headset and one of the first things I did was pull up the environment of Mars. It was completely amazing, as I felt immersed in the world and couldn’t believe it wasn’t real. I would love to explore using this type of technology in the classroom and expanding it uses further. It could be used to host live environments, asynchronous learning opportunities, and other avenues of exploration and learning that this type of technology could bring about.
Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Cooper, M., Colwell, C., & Jelfs, A. (2007). Embedding accessibility and usability: Considerations for e-learning research and development projects. ALT-J: Research in Learning Technology, 15(3), 231-245.