On the train to Tokyo earlier this week, I listened to an excellent EdSurge podcast about online courses. It made me look at digital learning in a new light.
OIS offers online courses in the Diploma Programme through Pamoja Education, the only IB-approved digital education provider. I was excited to be able to offer students more choice, especially in languages and group 3, Individuals and Societies. In our second year of offering Pamoja courses, students are taking psychology and business management. Online education intrigued me and the OIS leadership team did a Massive Online Open Education (MOOC) history course in 2105 from Harvard & MIT, called Visualizing Japan (1850s – 1920s). OIS faculty also often do the IB online courses rather than travel to workshops. Working parents appreciate not having to leave their children for several days, the workshops save the school money and there is no need for substitute teachers. I also completed many online courses in my doctoral studies at Lehigh University.
Michelle Pacansky-Brock, faculty mentor for the California Community Colleges Online Education Initiative and @ONE (Online Network of Educators) summarized the research showing a lower performance in online learning than in the regular classroom. As I found in my experiences with online learning, a lack of live interaction with the teacher and other students makes for a dull learning experience.
Pacansky-Brock is leading an initiative in the California Community Colleges to “humanize” online learning. Online education can be thought of in two dimensions. First, there is the course design, which features content and methods of accessing the content. The second dimension, and in my opinion the more important one, is the online instruction. Most teachers do not have experience with digital teaching and their self-efficacy for using video is low. Short videos, with clear, accessible language are needed including using social media and video conferences. Online instruction is a different skill set and should be considered just as important, but very different, from classroom instruction. The key to quality online education is to make the student feel they are valued and connected to the teacher and their classmates, just like classroom education. Teachers should be asking, “how can I relate to my students? “
The podcast made me consider how Pamoja Education is addressing the instruction part of online education. This trimester I will be meeting with and shadowing our online students to see how they feel about their experiences.