After participating in the virtual symposium of our LRNT521 course, I now have a greater understanding as to why “messy” (Cronin, 2019; Cormier, 2019) and “tidal changes” (Cleveland-Innes, 2019) are some of the words used to address the current state of online and digital learning.
A surprising point from Dr. Tony Bates (2019) was the Ontario government’s recent announcement of its new mandatory online learning policy and its apparent intention as a cost-cutting measure. Considering the e-quality framework of Masoumi and Lindström (2012), Dr. Marti Cleveland-Innes commented that “there is no point in moving ahead in an institutional reform without looking at, very specifically, instructional, technological and pedagogical elements. There also needs to be institutional factors, evaluation, faculty support and student support” (Cleveland-Innes, 2019). I strongly agree and question whether Ontario’s new government has fully considered this, or any other, framework for assuring learning quality.
I was also surprised that “students are feeling the emotional presence [in online learning] and teachers are not seeing it” (Cleveland-Innes, 2019). I admit that, although I feel the emotional presence myself as an online student, I have not sufficiently considered my own students’ emotional presence in my teaching role. I agree that the “key to online environments is to acknowledge and discuss emotional tenor as much communicative information is lost without tone of voice and facial expressions…. The exploration of emotional states that are not present – hidden yet influential – needs attention.” (Cleveland-Innes & Campbell, 2012).
One of the most intriguing points of the symposium was Bates’ discussion of the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario’s (HEQCO) recently published study on skills development (Bates, 2019). The study revealed “little difference between the test scores of incoming and graduating students in critical-thinking abilities” (Weingarten & Hicks, 2018). Bates questions how we are currently teaching skills such as critical thinking and how digital learning could help. I was intrigued by his examples of how scientific argumentation and teamwork skills have been successfully cultivated through online learning (Bates, 2019) and I will now give greater consideration to how similar success may be achieved with my own students.
One of the recurring ideas of the symposium that I strongly agreed with was the concept of openness as a complex continuum (Childs, 2019). “The diverse range of strategies for addressing challenges involved in implementing OER [open education resources] into higher education courses may be best understood as extending along a continuum of openness in education.” (Judith & Bull, 2016, p. 9). Having taught in various contexts around the globe, I strongly connect with this concept. For example, I’ve observed that the preference here in Saudi Arabia is for greater structural control, while in Panama it appears to be for less control and greater potential for innovation. I would be curious to know how one’s preference on the continuum relates, if at all, to cultural factors.
It will be fascinating to observe how online and digital learning continues to be practiced and defined. The present and future may be “messy” (Cronin, 2019; Cormier, 2019), but it is exciting to be part of it both as a teaching professional and MALAT student.
Bates, Tony. (2019, April 16). Rethinking the Purpose of Online Learning [Video file]. Retrieved from https://ca.bbcollab.com/collab/ui/session/playback
Childs, Dr. Elizabeth. (2019, April 15). Part 1: Openness in MALAT [Video file]. Retrieved from http://ow.ly/fFHu50qnns9
Cleveland-Innes, Dr. Marti. (2019, April 18). The Role of Instructional Designer in Higher Education Reform [Video file]. Retrieved from https://ca.bbcollab.com/collab/ui/session/playback
Cleveland-Innes, M., & Campbell, P. (2012). Emotional Presence, Learning, and the Online Learning Environment, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(4), 269. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1234/2333
Cormier, Dave. (2017, April). Values of Open [Video file]. Retrieved from https://ca-sas.bbcollab.com/site/external/jwsdetect/playback.jnlp?psid=2017-04-18.0934.M.260AD3030AD273255B9B9C087E6864.vcr&sid=2009211
Cronin, Catherine. (2017, April 20). Choosing Open [Video file]. Retrieved from https://ca-sas.bbcollab.com/site/external/jwsdetect/playback.jnlp?psid=2017-04-20.0917.M.260AD3030AD273255B9B9C087E6864.vcr&sid=2009211
Judith, K., & Bull, D. (2016). Assessing the potential for openness: A framework for examining course-level OER implementation in higher education, Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24(42). doi:10.14507/epaa.24.1931
Masoumi, D., & Lindström, B. (2012). Quality in e-learning: a framework for promoting and assuring quality in virtual institutions. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(1). 27-41. doi :10.1111/j.1365-2729.2011.00440.x
Weingarten, H., & Hicks, M. (2018). On Test: Skills, Summary of Findings from HEQCO’s Skills Assessment Pilot Studies. Toronto, ON, CA: Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.heqco.ca/en-ca/Research/ResPub/Pages/On-Test-Skills-Summary-of-Findings-from-HEQCO%E2%80%99s-Skills-Assessment-Pilot-Studies.aspx