Week 2 Response

I have had opportunities to teach fully online courses, solely face to face courses and blended courses. I have had both positive and negative experiences. I embrace the advantages of online learning for its flexibility in when it is delivered or accessed, use of discussion forums, videos, animations, evaluation, cost and time savings and hyperlinks to name a few. Saskatchewan Polytechnic has identified the “new learner” in its Strategic Plan and recognized that the traditional method of academic delivery (face to face) is no longer practical. Students are demanding more and educational institutions, driven by competition, have had to evolve to this changing trend. Saskatchewan Polytechnic have strongly encouraged all programs to use Brightspace to offer our students flexibility and more support in their learning journey. I have been using Brightspace for over 2 years now and have seen how beneficial it can be. I have all of my lectures available for students to access, have reading articles posted, use discussion forums, have them post their assignments, and have hyperlinks, videos and animations to supplement their learning. I have used webinars and video conferencing which has alleviated the stress and cost of scheduling guest speakers or experts in a face to face format. Although Brightspace was a lot of work to initially set up, I am able to same course components each year and import them in for following years and make edits. I also appreciate that I can track a student’s access to each section available online and this is where there is a lot of variation.

Some students are very active and others are not. In order to encourage their participation, I have assigned a grade with some limited success. Those who are not engaged, only participate minimally and the quality of their work is subpar. When you do make something optional, many students see this as an opportunity to not participate as it is not important enough to be a mandatory requirement. The students workload is heavy within our program and adding online content, assignments or discussion forums have been challenged because of the extra work it entails. I too feel that since I added online content to all of my face to face courses that I am working more than ever before. Because of online availability, students are emailing or posting after hours where I feel obliged to respond because I am the one encouraging their participation. Training and support is offered for instructors who want to use this online format but must be accessed on their own time. This too adds to an instructor’s workload as it can take a lot of time maintaining the content on these pages.

The success of blended and fully online learning is dependent on how engaged and self-directed the students are. Students who never log in or complete the tasks I have set out have struggled in these courses. They too are offered orientation to Brightspace as well as supports if they choose to use them. Some also have struggles if they are not technologically capable of using the new format. For the most part, I have seen more positives than negatives with using blended delivery methods and more and more courses are converting to this format. With change comes resistance and opportunities to learn. With time, this delivery method will be the norm if it isn’t already!

I do like how Oblinger and Hawkins (2006) argue that “learning is an active process” (p.14) and technology can be used to leverage this. I also like that they ask the question if using technology is an either or process. We must implement technology if it makes sense and our focus must continue to be with the learner and the desired outcome. Is technology going to lead to an improvement? I have seen the resistance in implementing technology in the dental office as well with the digital revolution. one of my first tasks when I was hired by Saskatchewan Polytechnic was to introduce digital radiography to our program and clinic. Many of my colleagues had no experience with it and were resistant to its implementation. I even had to hide the film so they did not resort back to the old ways of doing radiography! There were some growing pains but we have been using it now for over eight years and most importantly, we are preparing our students on what they will be using when they graduate. That is one thing that Saskatchewan Polytechnic does well is that they consult with industry annually to ensure they are maintaining standards and staying current. Technology is continually changing and it is a challenge remaining current not only because f the cost but the time required to be knowledgeable on the current trends. Professionally I am required to complete 50 hours of continuing education every 3 years (I usually am close to 100) and as an educator there is added pressure as we are the one’s people turn to for information or advice.

Digital radiograph showing a periodontal abcess

7 thoughts on “Week 2 Response

  1. Hi Dean!! You have brought up some very valid issues with online learning: student motivation and instructor workload. With technology changing the way content is delivered that still does not motivate the unmotivated student so what is the answer to increasing student engagement? Also with the content online being always accessible, it leads to the never-ending work day for those creating and evaluating it. How can these issues be resolved? It is easy to focus on all the positive reasons to have learning happening online but you have made me think about some of the drawbacks. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

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    1. Thanks for reading and posing great questions. I don’t have all of the answers but have learned that it ultimately is up to the students to choose to be engaged. All we can do as educators is provide them with the means and tools. It is no different than trying to convince my patients to floss! As far as workload, again that falls onto the educator to ensure they have work-life balance by setting virtual hours and ensuring they take time to disconnect. Hard for those of us who are very passionate about what we do. I guess that is why we get the summers off- to recharge and reconnect with family and friends.

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  2. Great post. One point that I could totally relate to is that unless there is a mark attached to an assignment many students see it as optional and do not see the learning opportunity that is present. It’s tough because there are many times I just want the learners to explore, make mistakes and enjoy the learning process. Too many students are programmed that only assignments worth doing are those attached to marks. I hope I’m around where students just embrace the opportunity to learn and develop a growth mindset without the need for a mark. I agree that there are more positives than negatives and these forms of learning will become the norm.

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    1. Thanks Dean for your post and comments. I hate always having to attach a mark to something but realize that it is a necessary process to evaluate a student’s learning. It is no different than setting deadlines to assignments. I tried not setting deadlines one year and it blew up in my face as most students did not submit until the last day or needed constant reminders that it had to be turned in. Having marks and deadlines teaching them life skills. Sometimes we need to look beyond our direct outcomes to the skills they are gathering to survive within the competitive workforce.

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  3. I find my online availability is easily accessible for people to contact me, considering the time I spend at home working on homework, or prepping for the next teaching day. Parents and students have easy access to me, and I like to be quick in my responses as I know what it is like to wait for a response from an important email. Do you have any strategies to limit yourself to not be as readily available? I feel it could pose as a problem for me later on. I also see your point about the obligation to respond, to encourage participation. As teachers I guess we need to find a balance, too. Great post, Dean!

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    1. Hi Kyla and thanks for responding. As educators we need to be accessible but we also need to set limits so we do maintain balance. I have a heavy teaching and clinical load and I like to be involved in my kids activities (hockey coach), volunteer at the church and be actively involved in my professional associations. Completing my Masters and owning my own business is also added to the list. I think setting virtual hours is the best option or providing an automatic response that you will contact them back within a 48 period is responsible. I know many businesses will do this as they have times where they are more busy than others. I also mention in all of my classes that I will respond in a 48 hour period and students are okay with that. i tell them if it is very urgent to come see me personally if they are able to or mention it in the message that it cannot wait.

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