ONL162 has a strong “social media” aspect to it, which I anticipate I will struggle with. In my private life I am not active in social media: I have Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ accounts, but I never post anything. I have an instinctive aversion to stream-of-consciousness thoughts that are posted for posterity at the press of a button. Something you write or say that seems inconsequential today can have unforeseen consequences in the future. I think this is a lesson that many people growing up today will end up learning the hard way.
While I understand that a social aspect is intricately tied to many online tools nowadays, I am also skeptical of how useful it is for online learning. There are some areas where I see some strong benefits – for example a forum for answering difficult questions such as stack exchange. However, I am not so sure I see how asking students to comment on each others’ blog posts increases their knowledge.
I am also sensitive to the fact that many students, like myself, feel a strong sense of privacy when it comes to their online presence, and do not wish for their learning experience to become a searchable matter of public record. I think that we need to find a good balance between the usefulness of these social tools and the dangers and distractions that they present.
I am teaching an introductory course in C programming. I’m excited to see how the lessons we learn in ONL162 can help improve the student experience in this course.
There are approximately 30 students in the course. In the past, it was structured in a traditional manner, first a lecture on the topic in the classroom, exercises given for homework, and programming sessions where the students work on laboratories. The students attending the course have a wide range of prior knowledge. Because the course is introductory, we spend a lot of time on basic subjects like typing and syntax. These topics can bore the more advanced students. On the other hand, the students who are new to programming really benefit from going slow over these sections.
This is one area where I feel that online learning can really help. When students are stuck watching lectures in the classroom, they have no control over the pace of the learning. The lectures are too fast for some, and too slow for others. If we can move the lectures to an online format, students can learn at home at their own pace.
This will also free up in-class time for students to have hands-on experience programming. In the classroom they will be less likely to get stuck an frustrated, because they can always raise their hand and ask for assistance from the instructor. Also, moving the daily programming work to the classroom encourages the students to program more.
My main interest in ONL162 is from a practical perspective. I am eager to see how online learning can be applied to some of the courses I am involved in. Specifically, I’d like to see what ideas and techniques can be used to open up more time for students to get practical programming experience in the classroom. I also want to see what tools are available and easy to adapt to the classroom.