There are two misunderstandings that, in our opinion, hinder teachers’ creativity when thinking about online classes. The first is the tendency to think about ways to get face-to-face teaching online as much as possible – instead of taking into account the possibilities of the new medium with the diverse opportunities for engagement and communication. The (problematic) assumptions behind this include the belief that text is less personal, that immediacy is inherently more valuable, and that face-to-face approach is beneficial. The second, referring to the first, is the belief (as Kolowich suggests) that the enhancement of the “human” element of an online course can best be achieved by showing either the teacher’s face / voice ( e.g. as used in recorded lectures) (used in many xMOOCs), approaching a non-interactive lecture-based attendance class or synchronous interaction (as in Google Hangouts), approaching a discussion-based attendance class.
An automatic preference for synchronous (usually audiovisual) interaction with students is often a “mistake”. It would be, as the teachers imagine, like a class, only online. Correct? Usually not really. Maha has had experience in facilitating web-based video dialogue, and while she sees that if it works well it could have enormous potential, it very often isn’t. When we learn online, we are not in a room together and we have to recognize not only the limits of it, but also the openness of its possibilities.
The strengths of online learning, especially in extensive courses such as MOOCs and especially for adult learners, could lie in their asynchronous interactive components.
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