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.
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.