Where and When Does Learning Occur ‘Online’?


check mark      You would think I had taken enough xMoocs or cMoocs in the past 2 years, but in my non- teaching semester this winter, I have added one more to the mix: Teaching Online: Reflections on Practice, a free open course offered on the Canvas Network by Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids,Iowa. I was attracted by the title of this course because the teaching I do is ‘online teaching’ on Moodle LMS despite my professional development focus which now gravitates toward learning the skills of an open educator, working across internet platforms and creating the web.

In an online course using an LMS platform, the course syllabus and course outcomes are largely controlled by the instructor (or institution) in the ‘walled garden’ of  content uploads in the form of readings (req’d or optional), videos, discussion forum prompts, written assignments, quizzes, possibly blogs and group work assignments. Sounds rather like a traditional f2f class, no? I have been teaching English this way for over 10 years. It took me over 3 of these 10 years (a lot of sweat equity) to learn how to manage an ‘online course’ and successfully navigate the Moodle software using our institutional tech support. I spent hours searching, writing and curating materials, also streamlining my curriculum, responding to students’ questions, extolling the virtues of online teaching to colleagues and the like. My students adapted to the online environment, it seemed to me (identified through periodic surveys), more out of a practical need for scheduling flexibility (60% held part-time jobs) than an inherent desire to utilize or harness the internet for their learning. An online LMS course delivers ‘packaged content’ and the student learning occurs, I believe, predominantly through assignment submissions (internalizing course content-hopefully), subsequent instructor grading and feedback, computer graded quizzes, possibly some peer interactions through forums and maybe the inclusion of peer assessments. These are still very traditional metrics for learning assessments even though they occur online. For the most part, my English courses this summer semester will still follow this model which is, for the most part, teacher-centered.

check markI have posted a .gif at the top of this post. It is of Jim Groom who sent out a challenge last summer in his course called Digital Storytelling 106 where participants in the open and ongoing (never-ending) course were invited to place the .gif of him on any backdrop. There were many creative submissions of ‘Dance Jim Groom All Over the World’.  Below is my submission, somewhat amateurish, but in the process of creating on the web (virtually without a ‘teacher’) through many of the open connectivist Moocs I have engaged in- including #DS106 and Mozilla’s #teachtheweb– I have been ‘unlearning’ some of my standard teaching practices and learning innovative ways of embracing the internet, harnessing Web. 2.0 tools, and crowdsourcing feedback of my work-hopefully for inclusion in my future courses. In the past, I have been incorporating a significant amount of reflective thinking for my students  (through readings and instructor-led prompts) about how the internet is changing or even disrupting how we learn in higher ed, but I am going to take this 6 week opportunity to reflect on how I can include more open educational practices for my students this coming summer term even as the institution binds me to the LMS. I read the following quote recently in  2011 World Economic Forum Report on “Global Talent Risk”. I would like to offer my students, in the confines of English as a subject, more learning opportunities where they can write as well as create digital artifacts, collaborate using social media tools, develop and expand personal learning networks, become more aware of digital citizenship and digital literacies, effectively curate their online content so that, in sum, they can develop ‘geographical and virtual mobility’-skills, I think they will need for their future working and social lives.

Quote: “One characteristic will define the highly skilled workers of the coming decades: geographical and virtual mobility. These prized employees will know how to network, they will create billions of pieces of content to be shared on social media channels, and many will actively manage their “reputation capital”. These men and women will be technologically savvy, mentally flexible and committed to learning new skills and reinventing themselves to achieve meaningful careers.”

Where and When Does Learning Occur ‘Online’? The world wide web is now our textbook or the biggest MOOC out there; learning can occur on the internet across multiple platforms; 24/7; students can learn asynchronously and synchronously to become networked learners.


Here is 7th grader’s You Tube video about her personal learning environment which really resonates with me.

Image Credit: Jim Groom of Digital Storytelling 106

Recommended Readings for Unit # 1 of Teaching Online: Reflections on Practice


Teaching Online Wrap-Up Week # 1

Ally, M. (2004). Foundations of Educational Theory for online learning. In C. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds). Theory and Practice of Online Learning (2nd Ed, pp 3-32). Athabasca, AB, CA: Athabasca University Press.

Aslanian, C. B., & Clinefelter, D. L. (2012). Online college students 2012: Comprehensive data on demands and preferences. Louisville, KY: The Learning House, Inc.

Brinthaupt (2011). What the best online teachers should do. JOLT, 7, 515-524.

Further Reading:

Infographic – Learning theories for online courses (Edudemic)

Online Learning Theory and Design (University of Wisconsin)

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