Educational technology is ultimately limited by the people who use them. It’s one of the things I learned at work as an IT guy in UPOU. I anticipated the possibility that it wouldn’t matter much even if I agreed to use the platform that students would say they liked the most. Not everyone is going to buy into what I was trying to do, of which I’ll try to explain briefly.
It has become a mission of sorts for me to keep looking for ways to enhance student engagement in online classrooms. I have always been frustrated with how few BAMS students graduate relative to how many come in each year. I hate it when I learned to anticipate that up to half of my students go AWOL in many of my classes. I want to change that.
To recap a bit from my previous blog entry, my goal was to try out things I was considering for my PhD study — an attempt to formulating an approach to teaching that’s consciously in line with the concepts behind what’s called the Community of Inquiry (CoI) Framework. However, I was dealing with freshmen. I couldn’t expect them to immediately know their way around this virtual campus of UPOU. If I couldn’t rely on technology to effectively guide them, the pressure would be on me to compensate. Or at least, that was what I believed.
The outcomes were… interesting, to say the least. Perhaps later on, I will write at length about what transpired during this time. But for now, that will be something to keep between me and my students. What I do want to write about are the lessons I had learned these past three months in class. Off the top of my head, I can think of these:
- A set of rules is a double-edged sword. The more rules you have, the sharper the sword. Without rules, chaos and confusion often ensue. Too many rules prompt students to tip-toe around and play it safe, creating barriers between you and them, which conflicts with my objectives.
- Building a community or community-like relationship between teachers and students take time. Right now, I don’t believe it can organically mature within three months. Such a task must transcend a single online classroom and carry over beyond it.
- If I were to do this again, I would need to be more selective with participants. I can’t just make an open call for volunteers. I’ll only have to do more work to deal with those who aren’t really into more collaborative and community-driven approaches to learning.
- I need to do a better job gauging the capabilities of participants. Underestimating them, on top of being insulting, leads to wasted opportunities. On the other hand, overestimating them leads to me asking too much, leading to failed expectations, or worse, unnecessary stress, hurt feelings and resentment.
- I shouldn’t concern myself too much with interpersonal relationships between students anymore. These days, I think they’re savvy enough to seek such things if they really wanted. University organizations from other campuses have apparently become more and more open to accepting UPOU students, which is generally a good thing. I just hope our students choose wisely.
- My main concern should be to create activities and requirements that will themselves prompt students to work with each other. Merely telling them that they should and then expecting them to figure it out on their own — that approach hasn’t worked well for me.
- Speaking of collaboration, it does feel like students are now, more than ever, receptive and relatively comfortable collaborating with others, even teachers. This is something I am very much excited to explore further.
Short-term, this forces me to rethink certain assumption I’ve made for my PhD proposal. Long-term, damn… times really are changing. I will miss certain attributes from past students. But at the same time, I look forward to dealing with the new ones. This is new territory. And it’s about time I start getting used to the lay of the land.