Online teaching and learning

This Modelling New Skills for Online Teaching by Salten, G. and Hansen, S. provides an useful summary on online teaching.  Though it seems to have been written sometime ago, I found it valuable to review and reflect on the findings:

In order to incorporate online skills into their own teaching, academics are likely to benefit by actively experiencing them as a learner.

In a lot of situations, traditional methods of training are still clearly favoured over online methods.

What are the skills and strategies required for successful online teaching?  I think this is a critical question now when Web 2.0 and social media are ubiquitous.

Common factors highlighted in successful projects using online teaching include:




Teaching itself is an eclectic process and there is no need to adopt an all-or-none attitude (Schneiderman et. al., 1998)

In this Breaking down online teaching: Innovation and resistance by Hannon, J.

One question arising from the two cases is how innovation, that is, transformative change, can occur in the context of mass teaching and learning, that is, the tension between innovation and standardised
approaches to online teaching. At issue is the tendency of blackboxes, such as an LMS, to be totalising both as technologies and as discourses, and to set a “standard” approach to online teaching which may be the antithesis of innovation. As such the “standard” for online teaching in an institutional will contest and resist alternative pedagogical models brought to the assemblage, like the collaborative wiki example.
So, there are still many factors to be considered when using technology enhanced learning in online teaching.
How about these 6 ‘s’ – system, story, style, sense,  synergy and support?
System – What sort of systems would be necessary to support online learning?  Learning Management System has been successful in providing an effective learning solution in certain cases.  Would this include Personal Learning Network/Environment?  How effective would the PLN/E be in online learning?
Story – What sort of stories would the educator/learner like to tell and share throughout the learning process?  What is the focus of the story?
Style – What styles of learning are adopted and adapted by learners in the online teaching/learning?
Sense – What senses of learning are involved? Does the learner use multiple senses in the “sensemaking process”?
Synergy – How is synergy achieved in the online teaching/learning process?  Are there conversation, cooperation, collaboration amongst teacher, peer learners and other educators and networkers?  Are the learners encouraged and supported to leverage with the tools and media in their networked learning?  What level of participation would help in yielding the synergy required for networked learning?
Support – What sort of support are provided by the institution, online course instructors, peers, technology,  community and networks etc.
Postscript: Interesting findings here in The MetLife Survey of the American Teacher: collaboration for success referred by Stephen

9 thoughts on “Online teaching and learning

  1. Hi John,
    I can not speak for anyone else; I will speak for myself.
    I have never worked in an educational system that has the level of support that Salten and Hansen feel is required, and yet, I have neither given up on learning nor using the technologies that are available in innovative ways. The MetLife publication is interesting, in that it provides data about what is right now happening, according to them. The ideas and the findings are not new. The assumptions that the best professional learning experiences occur when educators collaborate at the site is problematic. Too often when educators engage in collaborative teamwork at educational institutions, their inquiries are aimed at understanding and addressing an external set of requirements–accreditation, professional standards, and strategic initiatives. Is it possible to think in terms of professional learning where there is little room for long-term disciplined open and free inquiry and research within that model?

    Personally, I am not convinced that training, interventions, or tools transform practice; people do that. Is it not possbile to learn from and with people who are curious, who ask questions, seek answers, and take into account a wide variety of perspectives? I learn through immersion and participation in a community of practice (network). I learn in a system that is open in the sense that information is accessible and when opportunities are available for people to investigate and reflect on experience and history ( constructed knowledge of the past). I prefer to deliberate about teaching and learning while investigating conditions that constrain and transform practice.
    I wonder:
    Under which conditions is a LMS is a totalizing technology? Under what conditions are discourses standardized?
    Thanks for sharing your thinking and the readings.

  2. Hi Mary,
    I resonate with your views. I think many of us are in the journey of open and free inquiry and research that could better cater for our needs. Such organic way of learning (i.e. learn through immersion and participation in a community of practice (network)) that you mentioned is far more richer than the mechanistic way of training and intervention, where the notes are played out one by one in order for people to follow or imitate. See my comments here in response to Ken’s comments on the post Personal and Professional Judgment:
    In the video, Issac pointed out the drawbacks of a mechanistic way of teaching and learning, where the learners just follow the “notes” in playing out the music, with too little emphasis of creativity and not using the heart and mind in playing out the spirit of music.
    I am an amateur in music, and I only know how to play harmonica. I haven’t gone through any music training. However, I think the spirit of music is similar to that of our learning of many subjects that we have learnt, like the Mathematics, even in our University courses. We might have learnt the technical parts – solving of problems using advanced calculus, complex integration, Fourier Transforms, matrix, statistics, etc. They are important for Mathematicians and Engineers. But, it takes more years of experiences and application before one could become a mastery of those subjects, as we need to apply them in more novel situations to fully master the “organic parts” of the subject matter.
    In the video and this one (a part of the whole video) Issac mentioned that the musical instrument is just a means to an end. Similarly, the tools (Web 2.0, language, words, or the semantics, syntax etc.) we are using in communication are just the means to achieve effective communication. If I communicate my ideas to you, what does it mean? I might have used the mechanistic part of communication only, and thus have just played out the note to you in a boring way – the lecturing. How could I do it better? How about a story? How about a video? How about a debate or critique on a topic or issue?
    Would that be the typical limitations of direct transfer of knowledge in adult learning? Were the learners encouraged to think more deeply in the knowledge “transfer” process? Were creativity encouraged in learning? Did the learners know how to apply knowledge in novel situations? What were missing in the traditional base camp teaching?
    May I share this with you? What do you think?

  3. Pingback: Online teaching and learning | Suifaijohnmak’s Weblog « The Sharing Tree

  4. Dear John,

    I really appreciated your response to my post.

    I learn in many ways. When I am unfamiliar with a discourse community, I will most likely observe, listen, watch, and reflect on the way people interact…and I will participate in a range of activities. I will share some memories with you… I remember learning French in high school from Miss Menard, a French woman through and through, who only spoke French. I also served as editor for the French magazine, which provided me with opportunities to learn the grammar, syntax, and cultural aspects of the language. I learned to write, illustrate, and edit texts alongside the expert, Miss Menard. Years later, during my initial sojourn to France, I drew on my funds of understanding of language in general and of French, in particular, and I was able to find lodging, eat, and get around. A couple of years later, I took an course in a university–read passages, answered questions, completed recitations and grammar drills, and later that year, I returned to Paris for several months. I was able to get by just fine. I spent a lot of time in bookstores, libraries, and observing people at cafes, markets, concerts, movies, and so on. I studied phonetics at the Alliance Francaise. Through bottom up analysis of words, sentences, and texts and lots of drills and practice, I was able to pronounce words in a way that was comprehensible and considerate of my audience, and I could write grammatically correct texts, which made it possible for me to expand my circle of acquaintances. During yet another stay in Paris, I studied conversational French at Alliance Francaise, and I was better able to negotiate various aspects of life in the city and to engage in community events with my son. Likewise, my understanding of the language, the culture, and the history of the people expanded. Later, during a year-long stay in Paris, I worked on an international project, a Forum on Europe, at a teacher training school (L’ecole normale d’instituteurs) and my ability to negotiate multiple discourses and multiple literacies developed even more. I am still learning. Incidentally, I have the good fortune to be with a person whose passion and whose area of expertise is French history. His knowledge of French far surpasses mine. We learn from the company we keep…and we learn in many ways… and for me, whether the learning is formal or informal or nonformal, it is all part of the bricolage, the becoming, and the journey of life.

  5. Dear Mary,
    Thanks for sharing your precious anecdote. Great that you have the company of a French expert, and so learning together with that passion. I resonate with your view: learning is that part of the becoming, and the journey of life.

  6. I watched the videos you recommended–From Mao to Mozart and The Fidder and the Ambassador. Isaac Stern is an outstanding artist and mentor. His students are passionate, disciplined, and talented. I will have to continue this later…..

  7. By the way, have you read anything by Thomas Kuhn, and Hung’s book, Beyond Kuhn: Scientific explanation, theory structure incommnsurability and physical necessity (Ashgate New Critical Thinking in Philosophy)? Interesting implications for teaching and learning…. Critiques of both.. haven’t read them..

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