My first online course was a shocking experience! It was a May-mini with Dr. Espinoza and was a definite crash-course in learning to interact in an online learning environment. (Did any of the rest of you have this as your first class?) Since that time, I have completed eight other online courses. Most of the instructors have done a good job at including each of the three types of interaction deemed necessary for a successful experience in distance education. I have never felt like a passive learner and have been totally engaged in discussion with the instructor and with fellow students.
Learner-Learner interaction has been a major part of all but one of my courses. I have enjoyed discussions with other students and have found it necessary to actually rely on them for direction at times. I have also made several friends and met several face-to-face at professional events.
Learner-Content interaction has also played a major part in my online education experience. Instructors have provided textbooks and online resources in the form articles, websites, and tutorials. Dr. McElhany made a very valid point when she mentioned the content that we can receive from our classmates. I have a plethora of great websites, ideas, and resources that I’ve gotten from my classmates.
Learner-Instructor interaction has probably been the area that I have been less satisfied with. Maybe I’m just comparing it too much to traditional education in a face-to-face environment, but I miss the interaction with an instructor. It’s been really refreshing to have two classes this semester that meet in the traditional sense. It has helped provide the “counsel, support, and encouragement” that Mr. Moore mentions in his article. Another complaint I have is that I have often worked really hard on an assignment and then the instructor just gave me a number grade with no comments and without the benefit of seeing my papers “marked up” in any way. This has seemed very flat and anticlimatical—not nearly as fulfilling as getting real feedback from a “real person.”
I believe that effective interaction between students, content, and instructor is key to successful online education programs. Without it instructors cannot pass on information to their students (what Mr. Moore calls a “defining characteristic of learning”) and cannot bridge the gap that the term “distance” implies.
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