Ben R. Atkinson

Writer, Musician & Presenter

EDU720 Week 11: Facilitating Online Learning Environments

EDU720 Week 11: Facilitating Online Learning Environments

This week’s learning activities which focused on the challenging aspects of facilitating online learning environments proved to be very interesting and thought-provoking in a way I had not considered before. Obviously, with any teaching task, you think first about the LOs and the approach to teaching, as well as the way students learn and the accessibility of learning for all students. But, in some cases, particularly with a fully online course, there are additional elements that require much consideration. Most paramount among these is how you will deal with any challenging events or behaviour in an environment where teaching is delivered fully online.

The reading for this week, including the Characteristics of the Successful Online Student and the associated case studies, went a long way towards providing good examples of what this experience might be like and how it could be dealt with. Thinking about my own experience of being an online learner in this PGCHE course, I feel that I possess many of the qualities outlined and feel as if this might be part of the reason I found my feet so quickly in the online environment. I particularly associate with the idea of being ‘able to communicate through writing’ as I have always found it easier to share my ideas on paper (during previous study I have been known to write verbatim notes during each lecture). The Illinois Online Network suggests it is ‘critical that you feel comfortable in expressing yourself in writing’ and I feel as if this goes hand in with the ability to ‘speak-up if problems arise’ and ‘be able to think through ideas before responding’ (Illinois Online Network, 2007), both of which are key traits of someone who is able to express themselves well online. Obviously, there are certain pre-requisites of studying an online course such as having access to the internet and associated computer equipment, but there are also some more challenging obstacles to overcome. In particular, in my experience, the requirement to ‘commit 4 to 15 hours per week per course’ can be very challenging, particularly when the course is a professional one such as in the case of PGHCE and there are all kinds of issues around balancing your study with your full-time work commitments which, as I have often found, change rapidly from one week to the next. In order to combat this, I feel the only approach to take is to ‘be motivated and self-disciplined’ which is something I have tried to do from the start of this course, setting aside specific events in the week during which I will complete my PGCHE activities.

Overall, I feel I have changed a lot over the course of this PGCHE and I certainly had some trepidation coming into the course which quickly disappeared. I feel that, as a millennial and someone who has worked for many years with technology, it was not the experience of learning online that worried, more the level of prior knowledge my peers would have when it came to the specifics of teaching and learning. I’m not currently teaching in my usual role and I did have a strong feeling that this would put me at a disadvantage. As it turns out, this was not the case, which leads me to suggest another point which might be missing from the Illinois list – that of resilience. I do think it’s important to have this ability when working online as there are bound to be a number of bumps in the road which you will need to overcome and you can’t feel as if you want to give up at the first hurdle. In the end, the more effort you put in the greater the reward will be and having resilience will help with this immensely.

Thinking about the first forum for Week 11, where we shared our experience of online learning, including some of the problems faced – I wonder if any of these could be combatted if we were to run the course again with the same group of learners. Obviously, a number of the problems faced were unique to this cohort and that will always be the case. However, I did notice that there were some interesting issues which one might find themselves able to easily address. Both Laura – ‘I have found the time required for this course challenging.  I like to fully engage and take part and read everything, even if I’m behind,  which often causes additional pressure in  terms of catching up’ (Bevans, 2019) – and Carlos – ‘I too have found time management a challenge’ (Garde-Martin, 2019) – expressed a worry about time management on the forum and this echoes my own fears. Others have suggested that time for reading caused them to fall behind, simply because they are not a skim reader and it can take them some time to digest information. I also understand how this feels as I like to take my time over reading and make lots of notes. Perhaps some of these issues could be resolved by more targeted direction in the digital resources. Each week we get regular reading set, but then the digital resources also prove to be a useful source of further scholarship. The issue is, you often don’t know where to start and if we were to be signposted to specific short sections, several paragraphs say, as a branching off point, this might help with the amount of time spent on reading and free up some more time to ensure we complete all the learning activities and challenges.

Looking at the forum as a whole, I’m pleased to see that many of the challenges shared by my peers are the same as my own. This is reassuring and it feels as if, now we are at the end of the course, many of these fears have been allied by the robust way in which the course is delivered. Having regular weekly forums, learning activities and a webinar really help to keep you on track and ensure your mind is focused on the key activities for any particular week. I will be taking a lot from this experience in the future, particularly if I find myself running any online teaching sessions.

Reference List

Bevans, L. (2019) Topic: Week 11: Forum – Reflect on Your Experience of Being Online Learners. Posted on 7th April. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/344/discussion_topics/8470?module_item_id=19590 (Accessed: 14 April 2019).

Garde-Martin, C. (2019) Topic: Week 11: Forum – Reflect on Your Experience of Being Online Learners. Posted on 9th April. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/344/discussion_topics/8470?module_item_id=19590 (Accessed: 10 April 2019).

Illinois Online Network (2007) What Makes a Successful Online Student? – ION Professional eLearning Programs – University of Illinois Springfield – UIS. Available at: https://www.uis.edu/ion/resources/tutorials/pedagogy/successful-online-student/ (Accessed: 11 April 2019).

About The Author

Ben R. Atkinson is a writer, musician, and presenter who can be heard broadcasting on radio stations around the world, is known for his novels, radio dramas, and who writes and performs his own music in the country/folk genre. Ben is currently studying for his PhD in Ethnomusicology at the University of Lincoln in the UK.
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