Andrew Sullivan notes a pilot program for tracking e-text usage by students, and quotes one objection:
For a start, there’s no accommodation for different learning styles or reading speeds. It also assumes the worst of students, which has got to be a de-motivator, and it neurotically turns reading into a surveyed activity, which rarely does much for engagement.
Rochester is one of ten universities teaming up to offer online courses to one another’s students. Students from outside can also apply. Unlike massive online courses, these classes will be small.
“What we’re trying to do is create a smaller, more intimate teaching environment — one in which, if we have 25 or 30 students, it might even be possible on a single screen to have those students the equivalent of Skyped-in,” says Covach.
But e-learning’s use doesn’t preclude facilitators’ responsibilities for structuring learning experiences. The effectiveness and success of e-learning programs are dependent on facilitators’ roles in delivering and managing instruction.
One of the leading conceptualizers in the field of distance learning, Zane Berge, broke down an instructor’s role in computer conferencing into four separate parts. I propose a similar model, in which an e-learning facilitator “wears four pairs of shoes”—acting as instructor, social director, program manager, and technical assistant.
What do I mean by “authentic assessment”? It’s simply performances and product requirements that are faithful to real-world demands, opportunities, and constraints. The students are tested on their ability to “do” the subject in context, to transfer their learning effectively.
The best assessment is thus “educative,” not onerous. The tasks educate learners about the kinds of challenges adults actually face, and the use of feedback is built into the process. In the real world, that’s how we learn and are assessed: on our ability to learn from results.
Participants are given blank cards and asked to write down discussion questions based on the reading. One participant plays their card to start the discussion, and at relevant points another participant plays his or hers.
This approach ensures some level of direction and preparation for discussion while also allowing the discussion to take various directions.
We tried this to great effect in a reading seminar on technology and pedagogy for faculty and staff at Calvin College.
A classmate referred to these categories of speech settings from Wikipedia as a basis for thinking about online discussion:
• Frozen: Printed unchanging language such as Biblical quotations; often contains archaisms. Examples are the Pledge of Allegiance, wedding vows, and other “static” vocalizations that are recited in a ritualistic monotone. The wording is exactly the same every time it is spoken.
• Formal: One-way participation, no interruption. Technical vocabulary or exact definitions are important. Includes presentations or introductions between strangers.
• Consultative: Two-way participation. Background information is provided — prior knowledge is not assumed. “Back-channel behavior” such as “uh huh”, “I see”, etc. is common. Interruptions are allowed. Examples include teacher/student, doctor/patient, expert/apprentice, etc.
• Casual: In-group friends and acquaintances. No background information provided. Ellipsis and slang common. Interruptions common. This is common among friends in a social setting.
• Intimate: Non-public. Intonation more important than wording or grammar. Private vocabulary. Also includes non-verbal messages. This is most common among family members and close friends.