Monday, April 25, 2011

45. Online Learning Student's Reflections

Tri-fold Transformation: An International Adult Student's Reflections on Online Learning
Fujuan Tan
Adult Learning

This article continues on the reflection elements from the learner's perspective, which is not entirely the focus of the project conducted for this blog, but remains nevertheless an important element of the e-learning field as a whole.

Brief and directly connected to transformational theory, the article reads like a personal reflection on the experience of an ESL professor on her first ever ESL e-learning class. Highlights include:

  • the key transformations in the article are around language, culture and technology
  • even though the article does not cover in detail all elements of transformational theory, they are mentioned as: disorienting dilemma, self-examination, critical assessment of assumptions, recognition of others who have gone through similar processes, exploring options, formulate a plan, reintegrate into the experience and create new perspectives.
  • language - according to the author: "To elaborate, out of the four language skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening, only reading and writing are easily accommodated and thus commonly practiced in online learning." (page 39) This observation is important as ESL learner will face the majority of difficulties in the writing portion, and without guidance and support reading can also be quite challenging. A critical look at one's design of an online learning environment can call for a more balanced approach, where listening and viewing, and also speaking opportunities are truly embedded in the course structure.
  • additionally around language - the author notes the fact that common vernacular can be quite confusing for foreigners, and in online discussion forums, such terminology should be avoided or monitored and guidance provided in a timely fashion.
  • around the concept of culture - being a more written-text-driven environment, the online learning experience caused the author a great deal of difficulty discerning cultural understandings and rules. These are usually facilitated and easily available (at least for a quick immediate clarification with the help of cultural informants) in face to face environments.
  • technology support, ongoing access to quick questions and the need to have directions around behaviours in online learning environments were difficulties encountered by the author.
The reflection article provides a few suggestions for consideration.

  • prepare learners beforehand, with an introductory course or support system. A period of time through which ESL learners can build confidence and understanding of the system and the environment.
  • increase use of audio and video media resources.
  • create detailed syllabi with listing of expectations for course assignments, behaviours, time management, etc.
  • encourage ways in which learners can create a sense of personal community (share pictures, videos, personal and resepctful information about themselves).

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