Theoretical Foundations of Online Learning

All of my online learning experiences have occurred within the Walden University program. As a result, I have nine online learning course experiences with eight different instructors with which to base my considerations.

What were the pros/cons and successes/failures of your online experience(s)?

There were several successes achieved in these courses. The first success was learning to learn with others is possible. I interacted with different individuals, reflected on their different perspectives collaborating to learn different concepts. This was a big success because prior to these online experiences, I was a bona fide autonomous learner. The second success was development of my reflective analytical skills. The third success was passing the courses. There were a few challenges as well. There were often ambiguities in the instructions requiring clarification that was not always forthcoming. Feedback on assignments was not always clear. Although the rubrics utilized were the same for each class, each instructor tended to apply the scoring differently. For instance, some instructors weighted frequency of discussion over time, while others weighted original resources adding to the conceptual thoughts, while still others weighted multiple references and citations to course materials.

With what Principles and Theoretical Foundations did your online learning experience align?

The online program is clearly grounded in constructivism, “the philosophy that holds that learners actively construct and build knowledge structures from the interaction of what they already know with what they pay attention to in their environment, including language, people, and images” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 12). In addition, there is clear evidence of Bruner’s influence in relation to the course learning being purposeful and continually adding to the knowledge acquired in previous courses. Additionally, experiential learning is evidence in required comprehensive and reflective discussions, applications and course projects, which require interaction and continuity throughout the course.

Which considerations for grounding online instruction in theory were ignored?

In response to this question, I must note that Walden does not provide the instructors the opportunity to design their own courses. Rather, the instructors have little latitude with which to “teach” the materials provided. In this regard, it would be inappropriate to allege the instructors ignored any particular aspect purposefully. However, it may be accurate to allege that Walden has failed to incorporate some important considerations into the development of their courses. For instance, although the courses are predominantly constructively designed, there are also some inflexibilities as well. Personally, I am not a concept map individual. I can much more easily write a paper describing pictorially the vision in my mind more clearly than anything I can create with webspiration. However, there have been a number of assignments where I was unable to construct the knowledge in the method most appropriate and useful for myself, having to instead conforming to the requirement. Another oddity is that the fourth category of uniqueness of online courses, “learning resources and spaces are more flexible” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 8) is actually rather limited in this program. I purchased an Ipad specifically for this course to enable to me to utilize this flexibility feature, but found it rather difficult. First, iPads and iPhones do not have flash, which is the primary component of our websites. After a year, Walden added an app that allows me to go online and view discussions, but I am still unable to post responses, view email, or watch the videos. This is all very limiting. In addition, also in this category, the Walden library often does not have the articles recommended for a course as optional resources and/or does not have other relevant material when I have searched for original resources. I also noted in reviewing the materials this week a couple of other inconsistencies. For example, “one of the ways faculty can tap into students’ existing knowledge is to begin a learning experience by asking them what they already know or think they know about a topic” (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010, p. 24); however, I cannot recall any of my instructors making these types of inquiries.

What improvements or revisions would you recommend for the course or training session to more closely align with the theories of online learning?

Specific improvements would include:

  1. Allowing the instructors opportunity to modify the course activities to allow for some flexibility in utilizing technology and/or allowing students some choice of assignments.
  2. Improving the mobile access capabilities.
  3. Improving the library offerings.
  4. Incorporating technology advances so that we can include our picture, an icon or gravatar with our posts to add some personalization.
  5. Making the posting / response screens much more user friendly. We have no ability to enhance text, add pictures, logos, or even attach more than one file or link per post response. Again, very limiting to our collaborating with other students.

References

Adams, C. (2009). Is teaching online right for you? As more of your peers enter the virtual classroom, we take a look at the pros and cons. Instructor, 118(6), 41-43. Retrieved from EBSCOhost

Benton, T. H. (2009). Online learning: Reaching out to the skeptics. Chronicle of Higher Education, 56(4/5), A36-A38. Retrieved from EBSCOhost

Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The online teaching survival guide: Simple and practical pedagogical tips. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Conrad, R., & Donaldson, J. A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources for creative instruction (Updated Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Dessoff, A. (2009). The rise of the virtual teacher. District Administration, 45(2), 23-26. Retrieved from EBSCOhost

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