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The Challenges of Distance Learning

Yesterday, Emerging EdTech posted an article titled 7 Challenges to be Aware of When Considering Distance Learning. The article’s author, K. Walsh, gave a great overview of the challenges experienced by many distance learners taking classes partly or fully online. It’s always important to keep in mind that although different forms of online learning may be flexible, they require the same amount of work and preparation (if not more) as a traditional, face-to-face class. Briefly, here are the challenges Walsh points out:

1. The learner needs to have readily available access to a computer and the internet. If the student does not have this, they could miss important announcements from the professor, have problems managing their time for the class, or even fall behind on assignments.

2. Distance learning courses require self-motivation. When taking hybrid or online courses, there is not always a professor pushing the student to do the work for the class or reinforcing the material. It is up to the student to play the role of the professor in these circumstances.

3. It can be difficult, if not impossible to find one-on-one time with your professor. Unless there are communication tools being used (such as Skype or chat), the student may have a hard time finding the help they need when there is limited contact with the professor.

4. Although distance learning is becoming far more mainstream and widely accepted, many people still have mixed feelings about it. It is not uncommon to find people who believe that traditional face-to-face courses are far more beneficial and legitimate than online or hybrid courses. This is not necessarily true.

5. Those who are more social may not enjoy distance learning because real-life social interactions are kept to a minimum. In online courses, most of the interactions a student has with their peers are through online communication tools, such as discussion boards or email.

6. Students enrolled in distance courses are often expected to find their own resources to aid class work. This applies to both academic material and tutorials or help with the online tools the student is using.

7. If the student is taking only online courses and has no opportunity to visit the campus, there is a lack of campus atmosphere. This plays a role in the students’ overall experience with the institution, and also helps with the feelings of support.

Despite these challenges, distance learning has many benefits and is an interesting alternative to the traditional college class experience. If these challenges don’t look like a problem to you, you will likely enjoy and succeed in a distance learning course. This is not to say that if any of these strike you as problematic you should not enroll in a distance learning course. Before completely rejecting the idea of distance learning, it is always important to do your research, talk to people you know who have experience with distance learning, and brush up on your weaker study/technology skills.

Professors Review their First Year with the iPad

April marks the one-year anniversary of Apple’s release of the first generation iPad. The Chronicle of Higher Education posted this article on Sunday, which asked six Chronicle writers (who are also professors, assistant professors and librarians) about their experience with the iPad within the first year of its release. The writers discuss the ups and downs of owning and operating an iPad, as well as the different ways they use their devices. An interesting read for faculty members interested in using the iPad or any tablet computer to aid their teaching.

Tips on Teaching Classes Online

uw bothell students laptopThe following tips are excerpts  from Michelle Everson’s 10 Things I’ve Learned About Teaching Online article about teaching online. The full article is at http://www.elearnmag.org/subpage.cfm?section=best_practices&article=57-1

  1. Teaching online is a lot of work.
  2. Students appreciate regular communication and timely feedback on their progress.
  3. Many great tools exist but aren’t always necessary.
  4. Assignments and activities take more time online.
  5. Students need extrinsic motivation.
  6. Give deadlines.
  7. Online courses are not right for all students.
  8. Ask students what works and what doesn’t.
  9. Share ideas, collaborate, and commiserate about the online teaching experience.
  10. Teaching online can inform what you do in the classroom if you have opportunities to teach both online and classroom-based courses.

Feeling Generous? Donate Your First Generation iPad to a School in Need

The iPad 2 became available for purchase last week, and managed to sell out before the weekend was over. The device–a slimmer, lighter iPad with updated features (such as front and back-facing cameras)–was met with overwhelming excitement and response by the public. Even owners of the first generation iPad wish to upgrade to v.2, which prompts the question: “just what am I supposed to do with my first generation iPad?!?”

Well, Apple has teamed up with the nonprofit organization Teach For America in an effort to provide low-income schools with iPads. Since its release, the iPad has been praised as an incredible new learning tool for students of all ages. However, many public and low-income schools don’t have the funds to equip their classrooms with iPads at the moment.

So, Apple decided to provide an alternative to selling your iPad for the $300 or so it would make on eBay. If you bring in your first-generation device to any Apple store, they will take it and send it to a school that is teamed up with Teach For America.

Donating your old device is a great option for anyone who bought the first generation iPad, but can’t wait to get their hands on the newly-released iPad 2. The donation, GOOD reports, is also tax-deductible!


The First Day of Class

For many instructors, the first day of class can be nerve-wracking. Carnegie Mellon University has published a good article highlighting the key objectives that instructors should cover on the first day. Excerpt:

The first class meeting should serve at least two basic purposes:

  • To clarify all reasonable questions students might have relative to the course objectives, as well as your expectations for their performance in class. As students leave the first meeting, they should believe in your competence to teach the course, be able to predict the nature of your instruction, and know what you will require of them.
  • To give you an understanding of who is taking your course and what their expectations are.

These two basic purposes expand into a set of eight concrete objectives:

  1. Orchestrate positive first impressions
  2. Introduce yourself effectively
  3. Clarify learning objectives and expectations
  4. Help students learn about each other
  5. Set the tone for the course
  6. Collect baseline data on students’ knowledge and motivation
  7. Whet students’ appetite for course content
  8. Inform students of course requirements

Read the full article at http://www.cmu.edu/teaching/designteach/teach/firstday.html