Friday, September 23, 2011

Learning to learn online as you learn to teach online

Many traditional learners who enter the Online Teaching Graduate Certificate program at UW-Stout go through a period of adjustment during the first course, E-Learning for Educators.   There is so much information in the class, so many new ideas, so many intriguing resources that the desire to read everything and click every link can be overwhelming.

I like to remind folks that our classes are "8 week intensives".  The courses earn the same number of credits as a traditional face to face 18 week graduate course.  I think that helps when to adjusting to the work load.

The other thing I do is send our students to Joan Vandervelde's Tips on reading during an online class.  Joan's great advice goes a long way to help students learn hypertext reading habits.  
I also remind our students that each course remains open at least a year. This means they return and review the resources and discussions as they see fit.  Indeed, those that go on to the E-Learning Practicum class are expected to revisit each of their courses as part of a culminating e-porfolio project.

Traditional students are stuck on the idea that they have to read everything and follow every link.  You just can't do that in 8 weeks or 8 years. Reading hypertext resources requires persistence, and focus. The information filtering theme in the first e-learning course is about selectively pursuing interests, and using the Diigo social bookmarking system to save, tag, annotate and share resources you want to revisit or remember in the future.

When I first started as an online student I made a notebook of printed pages for each of my classes.  I recall the sense of old time order and control it gave me to print the assignments, punch three holes, and divide it all into flip book order.  I think I did that for the first 4 courses of my masters degree.  
Luckily I evolved out of that habit; saving a forest over the last 10 years!

The journey from online student to online teacher is an intense and fascinating experience.  Changing ingrained learning habits, understanding how to think with technology, figuring out how to project your voice and mind across the Internet, and being able to tolerate the ambiguity of a constantly changing digital landscape will help us all be lifelong learners in the 21st Century!

A question for all who teach and learn online: Which 'old school' habits do you want to change? Which will you hold on to?

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