Blog #4 – My Thoughts on Our E-Intensive Learning Community

When deciding upon a Post Secondary Institute in which to study to get my M.Ed., I did a lot of research.  I wanted some of my degree to include the study of technology in education; I found many great programs which were offered at many great universities and was left pondering which one I should select.

The determining factor in selecting the University of Calgary’s Interdisciplinary M.Ed. was the fact that it was entirely an online, e-learning degree. I cannot afford the luxury of attending a university campus full time or part time, nor would I want to give up my current career to go back to school and risk not being able to re-enter the workforce with the same calibre of job.  I have been very happy with the choice I made and have been very fortunate to have had great professors and supportive cohorts throughout my e-learning journey to date.

The structure of the courses in this degree program have all been very e-intensive.  However, each of the courses to date have had their unique characteristics, such as the amount of time spent in Elluminate, using the Discussion Board and blogging.  Some courses were Elluminate heavy and we met as a cohort weekly, had a few assignments and interacted with the cohort via the Discussion Board occasionally, and had final exams.   Some were more like this course where the cohort met via Elluminate minimally, but focused more on the social interactions of the cohort via the Discussion Board.  This course is the first course that I have taken in which there was a focus on blogging as a method of social interaction with my cohort.  I must say, I like this format.  I must also admit, that this is the first course that I have taken in the degree program that has had me so engaged and motivated to participate in the social communities. The feedback from others and the effort that the cohort as a collective has been giving has made it very enjoyable work.

I commend Dr. Doug for putting together an e-intensive learning environment such as this.  I appreciate the time and effort it must have taken to put together a course that ‘works’.  As Williams, Karouso & Mackness suggest, “learning in an online environment happens when the facilitator of a course provides opportunity for quality interaction, those interactions are self-motivated and self-organized and contribute openly to the discussions” (2011, p.55).  The quality of the interaction in the blogs, in Elluminate and in the Discussion Board have made it possible for our cohort to learn as a community.  Thanks Dr. Doug.

In this e-intensive course we are encouraged to comment on others’ work and we are encouraged to ask questions to develop conversation that will lead to greater learning.  But what I wondered was, what would happen if in a cohort such as ours (where we are geographically separated, do not have formalized friendships or relationships, and may not yet be at a point where we have formed a community of trust) we were encouraged to give respectful, critical feedback and we were encouraged to respectfully disagree and challenge others in the cohort?  Would this help us grow?  Could a cohort of ‘strangers’ respond positively to this type of peer interaction?  Just food for thought…  Now, having said that, one thing that I am very grateful for is that throughout my experiences in this e-learning environment, I have never had the problem of having someone in the cohort who trolled and created uncomfortable situations for the others in the cohort.  I have felt that our learning has been very organized and as Williams et al. (2011) suggests, emergent learning is able to happen because the course is balanced with appropriate intervention and constraints.

As Bouzidi and Jaillet indicate, peer assessment is instrumental in developing high cognitive levels of learning (2009), and although we are not assessing each other in regards to providing marks, the feedback that I have been receiving from others in this cohort and the feedback that I have read in others’ blogs and on the Discussion Board have made me rethink and re-evaluate my own believes and understandings of education, technology and e-learning.  The feedback that I have received from the cohort and from Dr. Doug has increased my metacognition.  I believe that the feedback has allowed me to self-assess and self-manage my learning–the feedback that I have received has already given me reason to delve back into the readings and to do more research to answer questions that have arisen.

There has been a lot of reading in this course, and I have made a lot of annotations on the readings.  I found it interesting in Jian-Wei and Yuan-Cheng’s work when they suggested that there may be substance to the annotations that others in the class are making (2013).  If many annotations from each of the students in our cohort could be collectively viewed after each student has made their own annotations, that we be so awesome!  I would be able to understand how my cohort was interpreting the readings, and this could help me with my own metacognition.  Understanding how to use and learn from the annotations of others within a course could be a course on its own at the beginning of a Master’s program!

I just want to take this moment to say thank you to this amazing cohort and to Dr. Doug for helping me learn in this interactive, e-intense environment.  We may only be an online community, but I feel that we are discovering great things together.  Thanks for all the online support.

References

Williams, R., Karouso, R., Mackness, J. (2011). Emergent learning and learning ecologies in Web 2.0. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, North America, 12(3), 39-59. Retrieved from: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/883.

Bouzidi, L., & Jaillet, A. (2009). Can online peer assessment be trusted? Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 12(4), 257-268.

Ibabe, I., & Jauregizar, J. (2010). Online self-assessment with feedback and metacognitive knowledge. Higher Education, 59(2), 243-258.

Jian-Wei, L., & Yuan-Cheng, L. (2013). Harnessing collaborative annotations on online formative assessments. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 16(1), 263-274.

Cadima, R., Ojeda, J., & Monguet, J. M. (2012). Social networks and performance in distributed learning communities. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 15(4), 296-304.

Macfadyen, L. P., & Dawson, S. (2012). Numbers are not enough. Why e-learning analytics failed to inform an institutional strategic plan. Educational Technology & Society, 15(3), 149-163.

About Donna

EDER677 Student at U of C.
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8 Responses to Blog #4 – My Thoughts on Our E-Intensive Learning Community

  1. sdross says:

    Hi Donna,

    I wanted to respond to the comment where you said, “what would happen if in a cohort such as ours (where we are geographically separated, do not have formalized friendships or relationships, and may not yet be at a point where we have formed a community of trust) we were encouraged to give respectful, critical feedback and we were encouraged to respectfully disagree and challenge others in the cohort? Would this help us grow? Could a cohort of ‘strangers’ respond positively to this type of peer interaction?”

    My answer is Yes! and Yes! I feel an underlying expectation of the course is that we will question, challenge, and grow. We will question what we read, whether it is research or each others’ comments. We will challenge ideas and opinions whether they are our own or someone else’s. And we will grow from the experience.

    I have found many times that I had a particular opinion on something. But after reading the research, or the opinion of a classmate, I realized that I may not have had all of the information to make a final judgement and ended up changing my mind.

    I think if we can do this, without criticizing or offending, then we have all learned and succeeded.

    Steph

    • Donna says:

      Steph,

      Thanks for your feedback on my post Steph. I am glad to know that others support the idea of providing respectful, yet challenging, feedback. I too have had changed how I thought after reading some of our cohorts posts, and have found that going back to do more research because I have questioned what some in our cohort have posted has caused me to reflect and grow.

      I am looking forward to learning with this cohort. We have a great group of very dedicated bloggers in this group and believe that if we continue to question and challenge each other, that we will learn so much.

      Donna

  2. ellenmoreau says:

    Hello Donna!

    It’s been a fascinating ride, hasn’t it? I’m entirely with you when it comes to your description of how positive this learning community has been. Where Elluminate sessions were weak in terms of communication, the forums and blogs filled that void. This combination allowed for a comprehensive experience. It offered, as you say, a positive one as well. We’ve been lucky to have a positive one as well. I too have found our peers to be supportive, thoughtful, and a general pleasure to work with. This is, I’d argue, an excellent example of e-intensive learning communities can (and perhaps even should?) be.

    Might I ask how some of your beliefs have changed? I’ve had my own thinking and beliefs challenged throughout this course, and I’m glad I’m not the only one. I’m curious as to where you’ve adjusted your thinking, and how you feel this has helped you grow as a learner and as a professional.

  3. Donna says:

    Ellen,

    Thank you for your feedback to the ideas in my post on our e-intensive experience within our current cohort.

    How has my own thinking changed as a result of this course? I think that my biggest mind shift has come from how I view the resistant teacher. By this I mean that before this course I had the mindset that the teachers who did not use technology as I wish to see it being used in the division were resisting change because they did not care, not did not want, to put in effort to learn how to use the technology and / or change their pedagogy. However, now I am of the mindset that this is not the case. I think that the problem is my problem. As a leader in my division (and as the person responsible for putting together professional development opportunities for all staff in the division), I now believe it is my role to make sure that the supports are put in place before, during and after new technologies are adopted in the division. It is my responsibility to find ways to help teachers who feel that they cannot master the use the technology or change their pedagogy, for I now believe that it is not that teachers ‘won’t’ use the technology in their class, it is more often the case that they just don’t know how. They don’t know where to start. They don’t know how to find the support they need to be successful.

    I will be more cognizant of putting these much needed supports in place for our teachers.

    Donna

  4. drdoug says:

    Donna, your post is full of insights and the comments from your colleagues just added to the value of your reflection. It is challenging to give critical feedback and to respectfully disagree with one another. Yet “cognitive presence” is nurtured by such discourse. Your comments on e-Intensive learning were very good. I was particularly struck by your thoughts on Jian-Wei and Yuan-Cheng’s work. Diigo has the capacity to allow commenting on bookmarked entries. Perhaps this is something I will try next time and find out if students find valued in seeing each others’ annotations.

    Thanks for another great post Donna!

    Doug

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