Saturday, September 18, 2010

Online Classes: What's In It for Me?

All of the reading this week about online learning (NACOL's "A National Primer on K-12 Online Learning; Eduventures: Instructional Tool Usage in Online Education Programs; Sloan Report "Blending In"), I've been thinking a lot about myself, Julie Rust, as an e-learner in an online class. My first year in grad school I took not one, not two, not three, but FOUR online classes, mostly due to the fact that I lived in Terre Haute (not Bloomington), and I had a three month old at home.

These classes, which I initially signed up for in a "okay- I'll compromise my education for the sake of my daughter" kind of way, ended up being pivotal, both in shaping my research interests and the learning of the content-focus within them. Here's a non-comprehensive "the good, the bad, but mostly the good" about my online course experience:

1. When a professor utilized video lecture or video-streamed classes (thanks, Dr. Bonk), I could MULTI-TASK while attending CLASS! Watch me folding laundry as I learn about creativity form a variety of theorists, or nursing my baby while taking notes on differentiated assessment!
2. I could "attend class" and asynchronously engage in forum discussions with classmates, whether I was up at 2:30 AM with a sick baby, or doing my work on Friday nights when my husband was home for work.
3. These forum discussions were revelations. Since my primary mode of discussion about course readings/topics was WRITTEN (a reflective, learning practice for me) rather than just SPEAKING (an impulsive, less-reflective process for me) my contributions were richer and more thoughtful than they typically are in class.
4. One professor (Dr. Barbara Dennis) had such a STRONG presence in our Y5221 class as she engaged so often in one-to-one communication, posting personal videos to our small groups, etc, etc, that when I met her face to face, I felt as if we were already close! She also powerfully divided up the class into groups of 4-5 for discussions, which increased an intimate community and sense of trust.
5. This summer, Dr. Rob Kunzman provided SPECIFIC feedback to my forum discussion contributions using an assessment rubric. Within his narrative comments, he always referred to at least one or two specific thoughts that I had and reflected on them.

I could go on and on, but it became pretty clear to me that, while face to face classes will ALWAYS have a special place in my heart, I've become a "hybrid" kinda gal.


  1. Wow, what an experience! I've been steered away from online courses ("since you're on-campus, avoid them"), but there's a definite advantage to participating as a doc student interested in education and technology integration. I'm jealous!

    So did you find there were lots of choices for online courses? I didn't know Barbara Dennis had one!! I've been in a loooong waitlist to take something with her here on campus, when I could consider online options too? Tempting.

    You definitely have a unique perspective now about the advantages. What about disadvantages? Any?

  2. Just noticed this reply, Christy!

    Hmm . . disadvantages:
    1. You have to be SUPER intrinsically motivated; it's easy to forget you are even in a class.
    2. I DO miss face to face contact.
    3. Some teachers do it well. Some don't. You have to find out if the prof has experience/research interests in integrating technology, or use word of mouth to find a good course/professor to take!

    Hmm . . I'll keep thinking . . happy to chat about this anytime!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.