Re- learning through e-learning: Changing conceptions of teaching through online experience

RRR 1: Re- learning through e-learning: Changing conceptions of teaching through online experience
This paper is focusing on the value of online teachers’ crossing-over, becoming online students and experiencing online learning. Re-learning is about reflecting on those experiences and moving towards uncomfortable zones of teaching and extensions of their own roles. The results could contribute in both formal ways (staff development) and informal (self-improvement).
Reflection is a key factor in improving teaching and it moves beyond prescriptivist modes of professional practice to questioning why we do something rather than how. It can exist in action, during the event and on action as a more retrospective process. A useful definition of reflection refers to it as the processes of exploring experiences to enhance understanding.
This paper is investigating reflections of online teachers when they assumed the role of the student and learned firsthand the essence of an online student experience. The authors are suggesting that this crossover can provide a powerful way to inform teaching practice on heightened awareness of the online lived experience. Their major research questions were:
1.    How does direct experience of learning online trigger reflection on online pedagogy?
2.    How could the experience of being an online learner lead to change in pedagogy?
The results showed that the strong themes that emerged involved interaction with students and presence of the teacher as well as the importance of fun in learning. Technology on its own is not enough. It must be used appropriately as an environment that enables learning and engages students in constructing knowledge. The results also revealed the centrality of the role of the teacher, being the key person managing the process, caring and with a deep sense of educational purpose.
The participants, in their suggestions, emphasized the importance of:
·         moving beyond the comfort zone of traditional pedagogy into more challenging and student-centered ways of teaching
·         establishing presence and community building in various ways
·         improving assessment methods
·         being aware of technical constraints
·         being ongoingly reflective
Conclusively the authors define learning as conversation which requires a two way communication. They heighten the importance of enabling teachers to become aware of how students experience e-learning which can be best achieved by involving teachers in student roles.
Strong points
There are many points I found interesting in this paper. The most important in my opinion is the value given on meta-cognitive strategies needed for a teacher in order to be ongoingly flexible according to the needs of his or her students in a student-centered approach. Prescriptions in teaching are not as effective as they could be in other professions.
Furthermore, the importance of crossing over from teacher to student is something I also found very interesting and profitable. It leads the teachers to reconsider their current approaches and methods and re-evaluate their strategies. It goes a step further from hearing the students’ voice since the latter hadn’t had the experience of teaching and consequently may not give feedbacks and suggestions as integrated as a teacher in the same place.
Another point of this essay extremely valuable for online learning is repositioning technology’s purpose from being a ‘delivery system’ to ‘an environment that enables learning’. From my experience with online learning I have come to realize that structuring knowledge doesn’t as effectively occur when being handed with notes to study rather than when interacting with other students over a topic and participating in conversations with the right interventions and guidance from the teacher.
The problem with the suggestions of this paper is that not many online teachers are in place to take the role of an online student, in order to achieve the improvement described through the process of crossing over. As beneficial as the process sounds it is infeasible for all online educators to reach and thus some may not even be willing to experience it; something also supported by the fact that for the research were the 5 participants should have been educators prior to students, one of them had been online student and not teacher first.
Badriya Al Mamari

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