Online learning: Pessimism, optimism and realism

However, the way we think about online learning is inadequate. Attitudes generally fall into one of two prevailing camps: online learning optimism and pessimism. Both sides are entrenched in meaningless, largely unproductive opposition, perhaps because both perspectives talk past one another in advancing valid points.

Optimists see online learning as inevitable, driven by demand for greater efficiency. Pessimists see institutions abusing government programs and uninformed consumers to maximize profits while undermining or even mocking quality of learning outcomes as a concept.

Within this polarized mix of ideas rests an underappreciated but important third perspective: online learning realism.

Source: www.deseretnews.com

I’ve been part deeply involved with online teaching and learning since before the turn of the century. While I understand the pessimistic viewpoint,  I’ve been an optimist and a realist from day one.

Tony Bates: Writing an open textbook: Teaching in the Digital Age

Tony Bates:

I’m writing this book more or less on my own, although I do have some support from an instructional designer and I’m anticipating getting some help with marketing once the book is complete. I’m also getting a lot of useful feedback, because I am publishing as the book is being developed (the first five chapters are already available here) and also publishing excerpts in this blog.

Source: www.tonybates.ca

This article is a report on the process of writing an open textbook. Those who know Tony Bates, know he is an insightful and skilled writer with great experience as an online teacher and distance education researcher.  

For insights into teaching, open education, distance learning… any kind of learning, this article is a doorway to some thought provoking work. 

Facilitating Creative Online Forums and Discussion Boards in Online Learning by Linda Silva

Too often, instructors get caught up in seeing forums as a quantitative measure of how much a student has learned, gauging understanding by replying with prompts that are, frankly, as boring or as tedious as some of the material students have been asked to read. 

These conversations between students have more depth and more personality because they are creating, building, having fun and interacting. They are not just replying to a prompt. They are using their imaginations. The process brings an energy and passion that engages them.

Source: www.evolllution.com

Linda Silva writes, “One of the best ways to get students more involved is by offering prompts that enable students to use their own previous education— and prod them to use their imagination.”

I’ve used a version of this idea in my professional development classes for years. I always encourage ‘teaching stories”. This is a way to help teachers see the connections between the course content and their own teaching environments. It also encourages story telling which is a very powerful way to synthesize ideas, not to mention very interesting to read (listen) to.

How-to Become a Master Instructional Designer – YouTube

Thoughts about instructional design. Instructional design is a profession that is getting a rebirth due to the internet; this leaves many trying to get a car…

Source: www.youtube.com

Anna’s advice is rock solid. Instructional designers must be able to show what they know. If you are looking to get started in the ID field, creating content to demonstrate your mastery of design is the way to go. 

If you’re looking for a fast track to developing ID mastery, consider UW-Stout’s Instructional Design Graduate Certificate Program.

Special edition on research on MOOCs in the journal ‘Distance Education’

Tony Bates:

“The August 2014 edition of the Australian-based journal, Distance Education (Vol.35, No. 2.), is devoted to new research on MOOCs. There is a guest editor, Kemi Jona, from Northwestern University, Illinois, as well as the regular editor, Som Naidu.
The six articles in this edition are fascinating, both in terms of their content, but even more so in their diversity. There are also three commentaries, by Jon Baggaley, Gerhard Fischer and myself.”

Source: www.tonybates.ca

Tony Bates is a wise practitioner and one of the true pioneers in online teaching and learning.  This article includes his commentary on the articles published by the Australian journal Distance Education.  

For a research based look at Moocs, with a helping of commentary by highly experiences online teachers and thinkers… this is the place to start. 

Microsoft, Intel, and Gaming Companies Get Ready for Laptops and Tablets with 3-D Vision | MIT Technology Review

Laptops with 3-D sensors in place of conventional webcams will go on sale before the end of this year, according to chip maker Intel, which is providing the sensing technology to manufacturers. And tablets with 3-D sensors will hit the market in 2015, the company said at its annual developers’ conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Achin Bhowmik, general manager for Intel’s perceptual computing business unit stated, “You can bring all these digital characters into the real world. It could be your favorite Disney character or something from a game.”

Source: www.technologyreview.com

As an online educator, I look at gaming technology and immediately see learning opportunities. At a conference in 1996 I listened to Ray Kurszweil describe a future where AI enabled holographic avatars would be personal mentors and master teachers able to meet the individual needs of each and every learner. It was a vision of ultimate differentiation that would allow everyone to meet there maximum potential.

This 3-D gaming announcement feels like another step into that future.

Diversifying the Role Course Content Plays

By: Maryellen Weimer, PhD in Teaching Professor Blog -

We all pretty much agree that we try to cover too much material in our courses, programs, and majors, but the thought of leaving things out often causes personal and profession anguish. We argue with ourselves that a certain piece of content is too important to cut, and our students need to know the information to pass certifying exams and to get jobs. Then there are departmental expectations. Most courses establish knowledge bases for subsequent courses. Our colleagues are depending on us. We further complicate matters by making course and instructor reputations a function of content quantity. A decrease in the amount covered means lower standards and a dilution of the intellectual currency of the course. Bottom line: We know we’ve got a problem, but these realities and our thinking have us backed into a corner.


Burkholder asks a question that creates some space in which to move. “What should the role of content be?” I vote for multiple roles.

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Source: www.facultyfocus.com

Useful insights that might shake up your assumptions just a bit. 

E-Learning Specialist Job : Mayo Clinic

Job Description
The E-learning Specialist performs a full range of professional duties assisting colleagues with designing and implementing curriculum (courses, content, and materials). He or she works collaboratively to design and implement educational activities including curriculum development, continuing education, and professional development within a collaborative practice framework. He or she will conduct an assessment of need, design curriculum for instruction, implement, and follow up with an evaluation of curriculum created. He or she will manage day-to-day business components related to e-Learning activities, including items such as marketing, financial management, and accreditation compliance.

Basic Qualifications:
Master’s Degree is required preferably in education, instructional design or a related field with three years of teaching and instructional experience is required.

Source: www.mayo-clinic-jobs.com

This is not an online job. Work Site: AZ, FL or Rochester