Active learning and combating learner zombies

OK  Today I get on my soapbox. Not that there is anything in particular that I want to rant about or protest I just have some things which occasionally bother me about distance learning in general. I get concerned when people start talking about virtual courses as a if they are something special because of the technology. Yes, sure I get it. Virtual courses are delivered with technology, but really, what are we doing? Aren’t we just teaching, isn’t that what we all do? Why is it that it has to be so difficult just because we have used technology?

Good teaching engages the student in his own learning, it makes them active learners. As a teacher for many years I learned that my students did much better when I got them involved in questioning, learning by participate in learning activities, in collaborative projects, experiments, and discussion. It was the interaction of the student with other students, with me as the instructor/facilitator, and with the content that I saw real learning taking place. Sitting passively reading textbooks, answering textbook questions, and writing essays is not engaging and certainly no fun. Engaged learning can be fun! I think of all these things this is the one that just kills me about virtual learning. By allowing students to be passive learners we have taken all the fun out of it.

Let’s think about these questions for a moment:

  1. When you create a course are you so concerned with the technology that you have taken the fun out of the course?
  2. Do your courses actively engage the students in the learning?
  3. Are your students responding with a lack of enthusiasm to your course?
  4. Are your students dropping out or “disappearing” form your course?
  5. Are you constantly having to threaten your students to get them to stay on pace in your courses?

If you answered yes to most or all of these questions then your courses may suffer from BOCS “Boring Online Course Syndrome”. Courses which have thrown good teaching practices out the window and creates passive learner zombies.

What this blog is about is creating active learning conduits for students and making it fun again. No more dry reading-writing-essay assessment courses. These are just not fun and they go against what is considered good teaching practices. Assess your own courses and see where you have taken the fun out of it and lets see where you can go with better teaching techniques.

Believe me, I do not have all the answers but what I can do is challenge you to try some new ideas and extend yourself to reach and challenge students in your classes. I would love it if you would share some ideas about student engagement with me.

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