Wednesday, February 18, 2004

On Online Learning 

I teach a variety of courses online for a number of online learning sites (Element K, HP University, Sony University, Barnes & Noble University). I love teaching online. I can usually expect enthusiastic students from all over the world who seem to truly appreciate the chance to learn conveniently from their home or office.

When I first started teaching online (just two years short of a decade ago, if you can believe that) I admit to having been wary about it. I’d been a classroom-based technology trainer for a number of years, and I worried about not being able to get to know my students and about whether they would be able to really learn anything in such a seemingly impersonal environment.

From my very first online class, my worries were set aside.

I DID get to know my students -- from the way they wrote, the questions they asked, and the answers they graciously offered to classmates in my absence. And my students DID learn -- that was easy to see from the questions they asked and, in some cases, by the completed projects they posted.

I found that, as in a "real" classroom, I could easily identify many of the standard student "types" almost right away -- the student who will ask questions he already knows the answers to, just to test me; the student who obviously didn't complete the course prerequisites; the student who become my de facto classroom aide; the student who is attending just to get the CEU credits, and could care less about learning anything, etc.

Since I liked teaching online so much, over the years I’ve also managed to take a number of classes online as well. Most of these classes have been technology related, but there have been a few soft skills classes thrown in as well. As with any type of learning situation, the more time and effort you put into it, the more you will learn. Having an instructor who is actively involved in the classroom message board counts for a lot. You really DO need somebody there to answer questions in a timely manner, or you can lose interest quickly.

Taking classes online has taught me a lot about teaching classes online.

My husband has taken a number of online college-level classes through a local community college. From time to time he lets me peek over his shoulder to see his cyber classroom in action. While I find the caliber of lessons and assignments to be high, I am often astounded at the lack of interaction the instructor exhibits. There was one class he took that the instructor posted less than a handful of messages on the message board for the entire semester! He didn’t enjoy this class – or feel as though he learned as much – as others he had taken where the instructor was more involved. No wonder.

Two of the sites I teach for online offer completely FREE classes:

Sony Digital University

HP Learning Center

Barnes & Noble University offers some free classes, as well as some premium classes that are generally less than $30.:

I also teach at Element K.com. The training there is a bit more expensive, but they offer a huge selection of courses and resources for students, including the ability to take certification courses and get CEU credits:

A new site that I have been getting acquainted with is Suite University:
This site bills itself as “Real People Helping Real People” and offers almost 200 courses. They just accepted a proposal from me to develop a new course called “Searching the Web Fantastic” so you should be seeing me on here in a couple of months. The courses are inexpensive, costing between $10 and $30, depending on the length.
The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.
-- Audre Lorde

Go for it! Incite your own learning riot!
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