Published on 2012/10/25

Accelerating from 0-60 Online: Insights from the Road (Conclusion)

While concerns with the technology going offline kept Dr. Mathison awake at night at the beginning, now that she has experience in the field her worries stem from all the potential uses for the technologies at hand.

This is the conclusion of Elizabeth Meyer’s four-part interview with online instructor Dr. Carla Mathison. Over the course of their conversation, Mathison has discussed her transition from face-to-face instruction to the online setting, how her online teaching style has evolved over time with experience, her thoughts on different online teaching methods and the advice that she would give to future online instructors. In this conclusion, Mathison outlines some of her concerns with the online format and suggests changes the industry might consider.

MEYER: In regard to teaching and learning online, what keeps you up at night?

MATHISON: What used to keep me up was a lot of very anxious questions.  Oh jeez, what if the equipment breaks down?  That was my one of my biggest nightmares awake or asleep.  What if all a sudden, you know, the screen goes blank?  What if students can’t hear me?  What if I can’t hear them?  What if, you know, my slides don’t work right?  What if?  And I’ve moved a little bit beyond that.  Not because that doesn’t happen sometimes, but because it just happens sometimes.

I tell my students right at the beginning of the course that we’re going to sometimes have these glitches.  For instance if they have an audio problem or for some reason they can’t hear me I’ve given them a phone number that they can call.  There was one time when everything was just going fine and all of a sudden my Internet went down.  It was a bad storm, so there wasn’t anything I could do but it’s no different from face‑to‑face when all of a sudden all the power goes off at the university.

So I no longer worry about equipment malfunctions.  What keeps me awake at night now is dreaming about the potential uses of these tools.  I am driving my tech support team crazy asking about how other instructors are using the tools and what success they are having.

MEYER: If you could change one thing in the areas covered by educational technology right now today, what would it be?

MATHISON: What I would like to see more of is more of a global or comprehensive look at how people learn.  That has to do with human beings and how our brains work and how we learn.  From my perspective as an educational psychologist, I think educational technologists need a better understanding of how people learn.  Ask, “How can we know how to teach them optimally?”  Sometimes I think in educational technology, we have a tendency to adopt new tools before matching them with the human cognition part.

MEYER: Why do you think that is?

MATHISON: Oh, because I think that the technology is sexy.  It’s changing so quickly that just to be on top of the technology is difficult and it seems like enough without worrying about how the brain works.  However I think the answer lies within the core concepts of the field itself; educational technology is well known for its systematic approach to instruction and that continues to be the central question – how do we leverage new delivery mechanisms to enable quality learning outcomes?

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Read the rest of the series!

Accelerating from 0-60 Online: Insights from the Road (Part 1)

Accelerating from 0-60 Online: Insights from the Road (Part 2)

Accelerating from 0-60 Online: Insights from the Road (Part 3)

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Readers Comments

Belinda Chang 2012/10/25 at 10:53 am

The e-learning environment presents an interesting opportunity for educators to explore further the role of human cognition in learning; in a more precise and perhaps “scientific” way than what was possible in the face-to-face classroom, the online classroom can serve as a platform for cognitive technologies that, if used properly, can enhance or support the capacities of human cognition. This demands a new kind of knowledge and even expertise from instructors and curriculum designers when they are building courses, assessment methods, and teaching strategies. This is something that should be addressed– instructors and other appropriate stakeholders should be given the tools to explore the cognitive technologies of e-learning to their fullest.

Suzanne 2012/10/26 at 12:10 pm

This was a great series. It wound together nicely personal experience with some depth on the topic. The personal experience element would be very helpful in a faculty development context. The insight Carla brings to the topic of educational technology is useful for designers.

Belinda’s comment got me to thinking what I often think these days. We have no dearth of expertise and ambition to explore elearning more deeply. We have though market forces in the United States relentlessly driving education to be more economically viable. Wall Street, if you will, is interested in profit, not good design. So what happens is the best designed widgets don’t necessarily become the widgets everyone uses. As Carla pointed out about branching, it takes time to develop these types of intelligent systems. Time always equals money in a market-driven paradigm. And yet every educator knows how much (unpaid) time she spends on her work. Unfortunately, there’s little evidence that “producers” and “consumers” of education are willing to pay for that time, or for the team to design that great intelligent system.

As educators with a passion for teaching and learning, I think it’s important that our discourse include the realities of the economic and socio-political contexts we work within. In my work I disclose upfront the time and expertise involved in developing technology-enhanced instruction. It’s the best way I know of keeping step with the trends, while staying true to my passion.

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