The first article I read this week was by Tauber (2013), in which they consider the future of online education. One point worth considering is the idea of personalization as a tool to facilitate student engagement digitally. For instance, massive open online courses (MOOC) are becoming increasingly popular among adults who want to learn a new skill or advance their knowledge in a certain area. This is great when we consider accessibility to higher education, however, the retention is low (90% of registered students do not finish a MOOC course). So, Tauber (2013) suggests course personalization as a way to remediate the lack of student engagement online.
Stommel (2013) further supports this point by stating that “students and learners should be central in mapping the terrain of digital pedagogy.” In regard to institutional learning, Stommel (2013) agrees that digital learning must deviate from a systematic blueprint to learning. Instead, digital pedagogy has “electronic elements.” As technology advances, so will these elements. Morris (2013) speaks to the flaw in systematic thinking as online educators try to relocate their classrooms by using already created lectures and assignments to “create a slideshow or a video or a piece of audio, load it all up… there you have it: online learning.” This copy and paste approach to teaching online takes away the opportunity to discover one’s digital pedagogy.
Relating back to my first point about retention, educators may risk having little to no student engagement if the content is not suitable for the online format. Personalizing the course to suit the needs of one’s students also requires engagement on behalf of the instructor. I know in my department we have what we call “shells” for each course that is taught in our department. These “shells” are Google drive folders that all of the graduate teaching assistants and faculty have access to. These are updated routinely by a graduate assistant. The idea is not only to update material, but also to make sure that material taught is cohesive across different sections for a particular course. I even learned recently that there is a certain percentage of content that each instructor MUST adhere to. This was a surprise to a lot of us because we didn’t think the courses we taught were so standardized.
If we consider a “process of unlearning, play, and rediscovery” as Stommel (2013) suggests, then we also must think about what it means to teach from a place of equity versus equality. This means unlearning what “works” as you enter a new semester, which is easier to do earlier on in your career because you have little to no experience teaching. Furthermore, we have to learn how to play or be spontaneous with how we deliver our content. Some weeks you may have a lecture, other weeks you have the students create a blog post. Or perhaps, you have them choose how they want to learn more about a particular topic. If you wanted some sense of structure, you could provide options. The point is that we are opening ourselves to the possibility of rediscovery, especially for ourselves as we find new ways to educate topics that we teach regularly or have expert status on.