Visser’s (2012) chapter “Developing learning to meet complex challenges for an undivided world” most closely aligns to the research I pursued this course, Building online community. Visser (2012) was concerned with approaching teaching and learning across cultures but not necessarily across the Internet. However, several concepts crossover and provide relevant insight to the challenges and needs to maintain a sense of community, regardless of geographical setting. Visser (2012) observed several key points about learning based on his experiences teaching in developing places. First, Visser (2012) wrote that learning itself has different meanings to different people and in order to design instruction meaningfully, one must acknowledge the distance between formal and informal learning environments. Next, Visser (2012) observed how beneficial to instruction the informal learning platform can be, once studied and understood. I especially love Visser’s (2012) third statement about coming to a place as instructors and facilitators where the learner as a whole person, and their ability to learn for the duration of life, is more critical than the adoption of particular skills. Finally, the connection between my e-learning module and Visser’s (2012) chapter is most evident in his final observation that as learners, when we collectively contribute to learning in interactive ways, the experience is richer and most meaningful. Encouraging interactive, collaborative learning groups, even in the online setting, is precisely what I attempted to understand and teach in my facilitation strategy. “Whenever facing really complex problems make sure you are in the company of others with whom you can sculpt the solution together” (Visser, 2012).
The single greatest impact that this e-learning unit had for me was to really spend time reflecting, and engaging in the feedback sessions with Dr. Linda Passamaneck about topics that were important and authentic enough for me to invest the learning-in-order-to-teach time I would need. I had no interest in developing the learning unit as a checking the box process, so the reflection of adult learning and facilitation was time well spent. It didn’t just benefit ED540 learning outcomes or the e-learning module; it will benefit my big picture goals and continue to shape my future research. That’s a priceless takeaway for me. Specifically to the instructional design aspects of the e-learning unit, I discovered how difficult it is to flesh out learning outcomes that really reflect the class objective. Learning outcomes and activities that connect meaningfully is time-consuming and requires creativity. I would pursue things from a creativity and innovation standpoint, only to discover I’d lingered too far from the objective and outcomes, or that the technique was too conceptual and threatened to fall short of providing the takeaway that I was hoping for. I felt limited by the time frame to really carry out the type of discussion I was hoping to promote and didn’t feel that I could ask students to have another video call, although I felt like that was the ideal technique. So being limited by timeframes, reasonable expectations, and the need for reliable content and resources while still allowing for time to create, discuss, and suggest was a steep learning curve and frustration. One note of peer feedback commented that techniques other than a discussion post would have been helpful in the e-module. I agree with this critique.
As I reflect back on what I learned, attempted to facilitate and discovered through the process and feedback, I would emphasize how validating the importance of community is to overall learner satisfaction. The importance cannot be under-valued. However, acknowledgment, interaction, encouragement, feedback, personalization, and authenticity about the formation of community, are the key factors. Although the facilitation itself isn’t innovative, the methods an instructor could use, but doesn’t have to, could be. What I mean by that is, the suggestion that each student in my e-module made for contributing to community was praise, discussion and feedback. These are not innovative, but they are interactive. And it was unanimous feedback! Through the introduction of other peer’s e-modules I saw opportunities for live polls and group quizzes. Both could be used as innovative methods to enhance community and spark a little fun and curiosity. I would recommend implementing these once the formative steps for community are already rooted. Introductions and time to read them, say hello, acknowledge familiar peers or other similarities are important steps. In order to mimic the face-to-face benefits, utilize the face-to-face technologies available and schedule regular video calls. This goes a long way to break down the impersonal and disconnected tendency of online environments. Finally, Ice-breakers (Palloff, 2015) and Coffee Shops (Donovan, 2015) are also ordinary techniques with extra benefits to the online learning environment.
Check out Rena Palloff’s YouTube videos at https://youtu.be/umcz0QIAWMQ and https://youtu.be/j2kDCAIDxes I learned a lot from her talks and research on communities in the online setting. Other blogs like Collaborative Learning at the Teamie.com https://collaborative-learning.theteamie.com/blog/build-a-learning-community-instead-of-e-learning were also incredibly informative.
Donovan, J. (2015). The importance of building online learning communities. [Blog]. Colorado State University Online Education. Retrieved from http://blog.online.colostate.edu/blog/online-education/the-importance-of-building-online-learning-communities/
Palloff, R., Kilgore, W., Bartoletti, R. (2015). Building Online Communities with Rena Palloff. [YouTube video]. Retreived from https://youtu.be/umcz0QIAWMQ
Skula, S. (2017). Building a learning community instead of e-learning. [Blog post]. Collaborative Learning. Retrieved from https://collaborative-learning.theteamie.com/blog/build-a-learning-community-instead-of-e-learning
Visser, J. (2012). Developing learning to meet complex challenges for an undivided world. In a Reiser, R.A., Dempsey, J.V. (Eds.), Trends and Issues in Instructional Design and Technology, 3rd Edition. Boston, MA: Pearson