It’s about time to further reflect on the effectiveness of the “blended” courses (part face-to-face, part online) I’ve been taking at CUC. Has the technology enhanced my learning, as any educational technology should? Have things gotten better since I last reviewed it?
In a previous critique, I cited
- Since the soul of web 2.0 tools is speed, efficacy, immediacy, nothing will kill a 2.0 flow quicker than a pokey connection, which CUC certainly has, in our class at least. Get the best tools if you’re going to teach the edge of technology. Anything less is kind of a joke.
I am sorry to report that the speed of Blackboard, even on the newest Windows-based machines, is still slow. Embarrassingly so.
- Allow a less restricted, more random and organic interaction between the members of the class via a social network a Facebook group, another ning, or even twitter. They are free, and could help make an otherwise incoherent set of individuals cohere, with all sorts of learning community formation potential.
Sorry to report that, no, the administrators of the program have yet to implement such a communications link. Imagine the useful dialog via “backchannel” discussion that might ensue. Or is that why the founders of our program have not gone in that direction?
- Short of a full networking of the students, might it not make sense to partner students up for mutual support systems? Isn’t most of the learning in 21st century classrooms supposed to come from the students themselves? Will the Blackboard ghetto provide a good interaction zone?
Ah-hah. Now here my hopes were surpassed. There has been powerful learning through the dialog around the reflection posts. Never assigned partners, we nonetheless cohered around good questions. We read and challenged each other’s conclusions, we affirmed and re-purposed each other’s arguments. Some of the discussions were so exciting that I even posted up in a blog featuring one. Bottom line: when the students had time to read and reflect, the effect was multi-valent learning, better because more reflected upon and thus deeper, more careful, and nuanced; reading and writing the posts allowed the teacher-learners to enjoy the camaraderie of fellow students, a consummation devoutly to be wished in classrooms, and not possible during the infrequent f2f sessions (which seem to be averaging 3/8 meetings).
Now for one additional complaint:
- It is 2010. I can get a full curriculum in mathematics from UC Berkeley, or a course in philosophy from Yale from courses posted on-line. With the easiest of searching, I can be rewarded with a complete syllabus of readings and assignments for those classes. Yet it is one week before my next graduate course, in Critical Educational Practices, and I cannot access a reading list. The bookstore has its shelves stocked with the required texts, but my professors do not use them all. If I simply knew what the required texts were, I could begin my reading (and my budgeting for books) right now. But I can’t. The CUC site for my Educational technology degree is not technologically advanced enough to allow me to pursue it.