When considering offering an e-Learning environment for courses, an organization needs to promote design as their first priority. My most recent experience of e-Learning involved taking my hunter safety certificate through AHEIA (Alberta Hunter Education Instructor Association) using the flash driven LMS.
The course itself was laid out in modules and you could not move on, fast forward, or skip instructional segments until you completed the previous one. Each course is completed in isolation, without other students, at your own pace. One glaring omission from the experience was a lack of social interaction: “social presence… is well established in the online education literature as a way of thinking about social connection and interaction for student engagement in online courses” (Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009). I didn’t have a peer or professor to connect with in regards to course questions, navigation, or extending my learning. AHEIA could look to offer a separate set of modules that have an interactive opportunity or an available instructor for online hours.
Continuing with social interaction, several organizations have tried social media campaigns that have either been disastrous (e.g. #myNYPD-users posted police brutality photos rather than positive images of officers) or well received (e.g. West Jet’s Christmas campaign-travellers asked Santa on closed circuit TV and received those gifts when they landed; WestJet posted the video to YouTube) . AHEIA could consider promoting a hashtag such as #AHEIA to encourage conversations outside of the modular work if they do not want to have a live component. Learners have an opportunity to have a more inclusive experience when learning from a distance; from a respondent in Nathan’s (2014) article, “social media applications contribute to our having a wider palette of information tools that helps us complete projects more successfully and provides a more inclusive experience for students in remote locations”.
As an online teacher myself, I am hesitant to encourage micro-blogging of this nature for my undergraduate courses. For it to be successful, a policy would have to be developed, explained to students, and referenced to throughout the course to ensure fruitful conversation. A policy not to silence the students but to ensure we have a understanding of the ground rules. Firstly, I would need to contact the university or dean of my faculty to ensure this type of social media interaction is allowed and encourage as Nathan (2014) argues “provide a firm, clearly-articulated set of principles that the academic unit is willing to stand behind (e.g. respecting student privacy, adhering to accessibility guidelines, maintaining secure student records, etc.)”.
Dunlap, J. C. & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009). Tweeting the night away: Using Twitter to enhance social presence. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20(2).
Nathan, L. P., MacGougan, A., & Shaffer, E. (2014). If Not Us, Who? Social Media Policy and the iSchool Classroom. Journal Of Education For Library & Information Science, 55(2), 112-132.
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