Monday, February 6, 2012

"But where do I START?"

I have found that the overwhelming majority of faculty are very enthusiastic about and interested in e-learning. But because academicians are trained and educated primarily in their field of expertise, and not in the pedagogy (the art and science of teaching), they are often bewildered about where exactly to START the process of developing e-instruction.

THIS ARTICLE ("Harvard Conference Seeks to Jolt University Teaching") describes succinctly the ways that we can begin to rethink the educational process. It's important to remember that the challenges and weaknesses of higher education are shared across the spectrum of schools and universities.
In large part, the problem is that graduate students pursuing their doctorates get little or no training in how students learn. When these graduate students become faculty members, he said, they might think about the content they want students to learn, but not the cognitive capabilities they want them to develop. 
"It really requires someone to be doubly expert," Mr. Wieman said. As sometimes happens in some disciplines and departments, a few people develop deeper knowledge of pedagogy. These doubly expert faculty members, he said, can show colleagues how to apply new approaches to teaching the discipline.
It's not just YOUR institution or your TYPE of institution that struggles with training/teaching the methodology of sound instruction---we all do! The ODEeL is addressing faculty development from both technological and pedagogical perspectives. Effective e-learning requires that both are viewed as intertwined, as the digital pedagogy is far different in both theory AND practice. But we're here to help! And to learn together, inspiring each other and our learners to join us in the "sandbox."

If I had to give just three short pieces of advice to those just beginning the e-learning journey it would be these:

1) Don't be afraid of "failure." It takes experimentation with your content, your personality and your resources to find just the right combination of technology, content, instructor input and learner feedback to get the right mix, and that may change from semester to semester with emerging knowledge in your content area as well as changes in the personalities of learner groups. There is not a singular "best course design" and as long as you're engaged in the delivery of the course, you CAN'T GO WRONG! Keep your course design flexible and dynamic, and you'll be able to keep up with the constant changes!

Role play! Put yourself in the position of the learner in your class and try to see your course design with what Buddhists call "beginner's mind." A blank slate, not yet painted with the assumptions of prior knowledge or experience. If you have a hard time "forgetting" all that wisdom and expertise you have accumulated over the years, perhaps you can test drive your e-curriculum on peers or students who can give you a more objective perspective of your course design. It's important to think of the experience from others' perspectives in order to identify and address their unique and ever-changing needs. 
3) Engage! By that, I suggest that you engage yourself in the study and practice of the field of e-learning---as an engaged LEARNER! Take advantage of all the research, practice, resources available out there for you to form your own path of lifelong learning. As you learn, you will also teach. By becoming (and/or staying) the learner, you add a valuable tool to your toolbox --- experience as an e-learner! Nothing teaches you to be a more effective instructor better than being a learner under others' instruction for awhile. Keep notes! Compare notes! Share notes! And if you simply don't have time for all that study, just keep coming HERE to my blog where I will continue to point you in the direction of the greatest tools, resources, research and support available today. I don't know even a fraction of what's out there, so your contributions to my posts will help make it a better blog for ALL readers and learners!

The Internet and e-learning have made the field of education more dynamic and collaborative than ever. Not only can you share the benefit of your experiences and expertise, but you can benefit from that of others every day that you spend in pursuit of academic excellence. The "sandbox" is a place to meet and experiment, play and learn in a freeform manner that allows new discovery and the occasional "failure." You'll see SANDBOX used throughout the field of e-learning in both noun and verb forms, the same way that GOOGLING has become its own phenomenon.

What advice would you give? And what do you need to move forward?

No comments:

Post a Comment