This article on online education provides good food for thoughts. Despite efforts in running an online education course for the university teachers (25), there were many dropouts (10 out of 25 or 40%), with only 15 passing the course -( 60% success rate).
1. In an invitation to flexible education teachers must clearly describe how the course is structured and what is expected of the students.
2. Do not expect all course participants to be active in discussions, but make up pair assignments in which the participants are encouraged to discuss.
3. The platform is of central importance. Make sure the entire course team stands behind the system and that the platform fulfils the demands required by the course structure.
4. Formulate common assignments in which the students get together.
5. Give each student a mentor, so that every course leader clearly knows which students he or she is specially responsible for.
6. Use different methods to regularly confirm, involve and encourage the group as well as the individual, for example by emphasizing some activities in weekly summarizing letters (for which the students themselves may be responsible).
My thoughts are
(1) The teacher education course has been run using a “teacher centred approach”, perhaps without sufficient consideration of the actual needs and expectations of the in-service teachers. The lack of time and heavy loading is surely an issue for most practising teachers, and so a flexible approach in catering for these teachers’ needs must be taken into consideration. The use of a learner-centred approach would have surely “remedied” the situation. The teachers might not have considered themselves as learners in the process, and so might have missed the opportunities to learn from the colleagues (practising teachers) on their motivation (What is in it for me – WIIFM) and appreciate their potential contribution to knowledge construction and community building. The teachers could have adopted the notion of being a node in the network, sensing the various inputs from these practising teachers, and acting on them to turn it into a valuable teaching and learning experience.
(2) A lack of understanding of the chaos and complexity theory (and the principles involved) and the emergence theory amongst both the teacher trainer and the practising student teachers. Despite “all efforts” in planning and delivering the course by the teacher trainers, the lack of a clear focus and direction (in the course aim, assignment and the delivery methods) as perceived and felt by the student teachers might have led to the dropouts. The taking out of those inactive enrolled teachers from course surely might have helped the teacher trainers in getting rid of those learners who didn’t appear to be enthusiastic, but this would not have helped the learners in further development.
(3) Mentoring, learning development action plan, on-going skills development in ICT is critical to success in such a development program. However, horses for the courses need to be considered, rather than one size suits all, in dealing with such teacher training program. The pairing of learners for projects is surely a good idea. What might be a better option is a Community or Network of Practice approach towards teacher training coupled with unconference, unseminars, and face-to-face orientation and workshops. Other option could be the set up and nurturing of action research teams amongst learners, which focuses on particular aspects of education and learning.
(4) Think global, but act local might be a practical way for development of individual teachers. Rather than the adoption of one single approach towards teacher training – using a structured course, it would be imperative to encourage and support the teachers to immerse into the global educational and social networks, communities or network of practice and wayfinding throughout the course. The development of PLN (Personal Learning Networks) (with Blogs and microblogs – twitters, faceback, and other Web 2.0 tools) needs to be based on an ontological reflective approach.
(5) It would be better for the learning of such complex skills to emerge out of the interaction so the learners become both contributor and consumption of information and creator of knowledge. This would encourage teachers to appreciate and refine their metacognitive skills that they have acquired or would be acquiring throughout their lifelong learning and development.
(6) It is important to focus on the compliance to certain educational policy or procedures, from a teacher training or management point of view. However, the paradigm shift from a teacher centred training to learner centred training is fundamental in making such program a success. Otherwise, it would lead to programs such as “No students left behind” sort of “pedagogy” with slogan where teachers would find it both frustrating and unrealistic to achieve. Though compliance is important (for auditing and development reasons), what is more important is the support of a culture of personal learning development (a sense of collaboration and PLN encouraged and supported amongst educators, both locally and globally, via social and educational networks and community of practice IMHO)