Professors Regard Online Instruction as Less Effective Than Classroom Learning?

I just read this article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professors Regard Online Instruction as Less Effective Than Classroom Learning, which discussed the initial results of a survey about distance learning.

Interesting findings:

  • more work with less compensation and respect for faculty
  • worse learning outcomes for learners

Honestly, the results do not surprise me. There is a lot more work with online and distance education, and there is not compensation for all these additional efforts. It is a great challenge to engage and maintain the attention of people without the benefit of body language to assess attention, mood, and questions. Fostering a sense of community and shared learning(?!); do not even get me started on these hurdles . . . 

Perhaps this demonstrates how those of us who work in distance education are still considered pioneers (martyrs?) for a changing learning modality? Perhaps institutions embraced distance learning too quickly without considering the additional financial and personnel support needed (beyond the pricy systems themselves)? Perhaps these are the normal growing pains involved in every major shift in teaching and learning?

Let’s face it, changing any aspect of the status quo (and higher education changes very very very very slowly) is a challenge, especially when there becomes more of a flattening of authority in education (the teacher no longer is in front, much of human knowledge is a few keystrokes away, etc.). Whatever the case, I am glad I teach and learn online, as the many benefits of it changes the very dynamics of adult learning itself.

Online Course Discussion Board / Forum Suggestions

I just read an interesting paper by Ben Plumpton at Open University, entitled How students can make conferencing work. While it is not a research paper, there are many practical suggestions in it that I am planning to use for my Principles and Practices of Online Course Creation and Instructional Design (PPOCCID) course that just began.  I have previously used discussion forums to support our weekly synchronous session, though will increasingly rely on them as a student will be joining the course who cannot attend any of the synchronous sessions, and I need to establish a course esprit de corps for our work.

Plumpton had me when one of his paper sections was titled “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFM?), which is one of the more practical and pragmatic concepts I know and use in my classes. He is right, as he says (p. 2) about online conferencing (use of discussion boards / discussion forums):

  • You get support when you need it (in exchange for giving support to others);
  • You have a richer vein of experience to draw on, because you can pool examples, references etc;
  • Very often a group can produce better work than an individual. One person might put forward a thought or idea, often not completely formed or finished, someone else picks up on it and takes it forward, that sparks off more ideas in others, and between them the group creates something much better than any could have done on their own;
  • Learning by ‘talking’ is more powerful for most people than learning by reading – you think about things more deeply, and are likely to remember things better;
  • The best way to check your own understanding is to explain it to others. Explaining things for your fellow students is good practice for the kind of explanations you’ll probably have to do in assignments.

I am planning to discuss this paper with some colleagues this week (online, of course!), and hope to get more of an understanding of it in the process. Perhaps others may find this useful as well?

PPOCCID Class Begins Tonight

I am teaching PPOCCID (Principles and Practices of Online Course Creation and Instructional Design) again beginning this evening. I made the syllabus available for anybody who wants to see / use it (comments and feedback are very welcome!).

ppoccid screenshot

One of the ongoing assignments for my students will be to blog:

Course Blogs

Reflective Practice is a critical aspect of teaching and learning, and a fundamental element of teaching online involves acquiring a comfort with technology to communicate and collaborate.

Online learning is a more networked experience than traditional face-to-face (F2F) learning. Thus, students are required to use a blog for this course. Students may use their own blog (if they have one) or create a new one (Blogger,, or elsewhere). Blog posts should be done at least once a week discussing some learning or a reaction to anything in the course.

Making at least two comments every week on other course attendee blogs is required.

Let me set an example for our first posting!