March 17, 2017 —
Online learning and teaching have transformed my educational perspective and role. My next three blog entries will address the three most significant areas of change for me, including:
I look forward to your reactions, responses, and stories about the influence that online learning has had on your life!
My first experience in online learning was as an online teacher. I worked with students who, for the most part, needed extra help with mathematics. My initial goal was to encourage my students and build relationships and trust. Using the tools of online learning and all of the technology that was beginning to be developed, I saw how I could individually address each student’s needs. The online textbooks that were being developed were interactive and prescriptive. The technology helped me pinpoint their specific areas of need. It was amazing and rewarding to see the progress of students who had been struggling with mathematics for a long time.
The personal relationships that developed surprised me. I had anticipated a more removed, impersonal interaction with my online students. However, students shared things in their lives that they would not have felt as able to share in a classroom setting. The connections with my online students were often on a deeper level than my classroom students.
I wanted to take everything that I learned from my online teaching experience into my face-to-face classroom, both from the academic standpoint and the personal perspective. I sought out tools that assisted me in determining their areas of need, similar to my online students. I also began to use tools that would allow me to communicate more individually with my students such as email and chat. As it turned out, the unintended benefits of my online teaching experience completely changed my brick and mortar teaching.
From the student perspective, I had many experiences that personified what online learning can bring to a student’s learning experiences. One experience in particular continues to remind me of the value of online learning options for students. I had a student in my face-to-face 8t h grade algebra one class who was consistently unsuccessful. I knew she was a capable student but as an 8th grader she had other priorities in her life. There were times when she just wasn’t focused and attentive and missed out on concepts that were being taught. Those holes in her learning accumulated so that she could no longer keep up with the class. As much as I helped and as much as she tried, there just seemed to be no way to get her caught up. Two years later in her 10th grade year she became one of my online students, again in algebra one. We had a great relationship in the classroom and I thought this would be a great opportunity to see how she could do working on her first online class with someone she knew and trusted. We were able to pinpoint the holes and fill those holes. She felt free to ask questions of me regularly. She was not in embarrassed to “raise her hand”.
This student wrote me an email after a few weeks indicating how wonderful this experience was to be an online learner. She told me how much she appreciated the one to one help that she was getting from me. She clearly learned the algebra one this time. Her understanding went to from 40 to 50% level to an 80 to 90% level.
Here is part of her email (used with her permission):
“So many of my friends were asking about my online class today, they all think that this is a great program because of the ability to do it on your own and you have more of a I guess one on one kind of learning instead of a normal classroom setting where there is constant homework that you don’t get enough help with.
I’m learning so much more and faster with this because it’s so not stressful.”
Image Credit: Wokandapix/Pixabay