The short answer to this is yes…and never. Why? Because learning never stops! We learn something every day, whether we make a mistake, try something new, or take a class. We never stop taking in information, processing the data, and determining how we will use that information in the future.
I was fortunate to get my first computer in the late '80s when I went to college. I remember getting my Intel 386 from Sam's Club with my math professor Dr. Tilton. At the time, I was majoring in mathematics and minoring in computer science. A little secret, I was also one of those kids who created the text loops that would spam the computer monitors in the stores in high school.
I saw the evolution of computers move from businesses to homes, snail mail to emails, and the start of social media. Education has reflected this shift, too, as the chalkboard was replaced by transparency projectors and now smart boards in the classroom. You see this in writing from ink pens to typewriters to the computer. Technology has truly changed our world and how we learn. I sometimes wonder what my children and future grandchildren will experience.
My latest interaction with technology has been the movement of remote teaching in higher education. Dr. K. Todd Houston (a 3C partner) and I were at the right place at the right time to be at the forefront of delivering education to students remotely.
Lead by Dr. Tina Smith, she was charged with developing a distance education program in the early '90s. She was and still is an amazing, forward thinker. Dr. Smith approached Todd and me to be a part of this endeavor at the University of South Carolina. Unfortunately, streaming videos and live video conferencing back then were highly complex and expensive, if not impossible. But what we did have were VCRs players that were accessible and affordable. Lecturing in front of a camera in a recording studio with no students was very challenging – I could never get myself to watch all my VCR tapes of my lectures. While the students were grateful to have this instruction and reaped benefits, I was challenged and did not feel prepared, but I took notes, listened to feedback, and over time became more comfortable with online teaching and learning.
I have been fortunate to be able to teach learners at various stages in their professional journey. Here are some lessons I formulated:
- Be Empowered: The instructor needs to have fun and be excited about being present because that comes through when teaching, regardless if it is live or recorded.
- The Right Environment and Equipment: The environment and equipment make a difference for the learner. For example, the microphone, visual background, and noise levels make listening and watching more accessible, making learning more enjoyable.
- Stay Relevant: The relevance of the materials and the design of the course are essential factors that determine if the learner will continue with your class or drop out. What you say you will teach should be spelled out. As the instructor, you need to follow through with this. Objectives should match the content.
- Chunking: Consider chunking your lessons into microcontent that is about 6-minutes in length. In other words, one key concept per video.
- Diverse Material: The course materials should be available in various materials to appeal to different learning styles. Your videos should be captioned, and transcripts should be available. Audio formats should additionally be open to allow for listening at a later time. If you can have hands-on activities, that is even better!
- Create Involvement with Activities: Your course should have more experiential learning and growth mindset activities in place of didactic instruction. Stop lecturing and go to the Gemba (where the action is occurring to show and teach them at the moment).
- Engage by Connecting: Make connections with your learners. The learners will remember how you made them feel, not so much what you taught them. If you believe in them, reached out, and be available when they have questions. As a result, your learner will be more engaged and motivated to continue with the course.
While many of these factors are essential regardless of where the learner is, they carry more weight and significantly impact if the learner continues with your online course or if they turn you off.
There are two benefits viewers gain, accessibility and standardization. Online learning is a way to share information that otherwise may not be accessible to a person. It also allows for standardization, so you don't end up with the telephone game scenario or remembering to cover something in one class but not another.
Another wonderful resource is from a nonprofit organization called Quality Matters. This organization is dedicated to promoting and improving the quality of online education and student learning nationally and internationally. They have developed research-supported and practice-based tools, rubrics, and professional development opportunities for K-12, higher education, and post-graduate professional development online training programs. As a result, online courses have significantly improved using their resources due to their peer-review process, certifications, and quality standards.
Not all the responsibilities lie with the instructor, though. The learner needs to have:
- Good management skills
- Be responsible for learning
- Complete required lessons and assignments
- Give constructive feedback
When you do this, you are not only helping your instructor; you are helping future students who will be taking courses by this instructor. As a learner, what you also do matters.
Let me repeat, learning never stops. At 3C, our content creators are allied health professionals like you and me. They are busy in the clinics, hospitals, and centers. Knowing this, our content creators have access to a learning library at 3C called Brainstorm. This intranet portal is full of resources, evidence-based teaching practices, and how-to guides to help them deliver high-quality content. We all have a learning curve, but together we will all continue to grow and transform the lives of the people around us for the better.
Connect, Communicate, and Collaborate. That is the 3C way.
Castro, M.D.B., Tumibay, G.M. (2021). A literature review: efficacy of online learning courses for higher education institution using meta-analysis. Educ Inf Technol 26, 1367–1385. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-019-10027-z
Chen, K., & Jang, S. (2010). Motivation in online learning: Testing a model of self-determination theory. Computers in Human Behavior, 26(4), 741-752. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2010.01.011.
Holder, B. (2007). An investigation of hope, academics, environment, and motivation as predictors of persistence in higher education online programs. Internet & Higher Education, 10(4), 245-260. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2007.08.002.
Liaw, S. (2008). Investigating students’ perceived satisfaction, behavioral intention, and effectiveness of e-learning: A case study of the Blackboard system. Computers & Education, 51(2), 864-873. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2007.09.005.
QualityMatters.org (2021). Helping you deliver on your online promise. Annapolis, MD.
Nistor, N., & Neubauer, K. (2010). From participation to dropout: Quantitative participation patterns in online university courses. Computers & Education, 55(2), 663-672. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2010.02.026.
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich from Pexels
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