Community

I am taking another online course at another institution that shall remain nameless.  The course is on graphic design, and it’s very similar to Designing Visuals for Instruction.  After several courses on visual design now, it’s pretty clear that I shouldn’t quit my day job.  Things like composition, color, etc. totally escape me. 

When I signed up for the graphic design course, I expected that it would be very similar to the online courses that I’ve taken at Kent State.  I assumed that there would be a lot of student interaction through discussion boards and a lot of opportunities to give and receive feedback. 

Instead, over the past several weeks, I have been totally alone in this course.  The instructor placed all of the materials in Blackboard and left the class to their own devices.  There are no discussion boards, no chats, no online office hours.  I have emailed the instructor several times with questions about assignments, and I’m still waiting on a response.  The feedback that I’ve received on assignments seems canned, and I’ve been unable to get more information to figure out what I’ve done wrong.  The course already stressed me out because of the subject matter, and now I have the additional stress of floundering around with no way to communicate with anyone else.  It is a very isolating experience.

Online learning doesn’t have to be isolating.  In Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, Will Richardson writes that blogs “expand the walls of the classroom” (Richardson, 2010).  Richardson is referring to the ways that blogs can outsiders, such as experts, into the classroom, but I think this statement also can be interpreted another way.  Online tools, including blogs, wikis, and discussion boards, can expand the classroom beyond a physical location and help students create a community even though they may never meet face to face.  I think this sense of community is really important in ensuring that students are successful in the course.  As much as students (myself included) may grumble about discussion board posts, I really have learned a lot from my classmates by reading their posts. 

As I have been working through the material in the graphic design course, I am really missing the feedback that my classmates could provide.  (Lord knows I need it!)  At the very least, we could bond over complaints about unanswered emails.

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2 thoughts on “Community

  1. Yikes! That sounds awful! Sorry to hear you are having so many issues! To me, some of what you mentioned are pitfalls to online learning. The lack of or delayed response from an instructor is one of the most frustrating to me. I realize an instructor is not going to be tied to his/her computer 24/7, but at least with face-to-face learning, you can get a response right away before you get too far of track on an assignment.

    I agree with you. I, too, have grumbled about discussion posting requirements and the amount of time they take, but they have been valuable in learning from others and making connections. I have noticed that I feel more connected and seem to know more about my classmates in classes where we had more discussions and/or a coffee-shop area where we could talk “off topic,” if we wanted. Those are the kinds of interactions I miss in online learning.

    1. It hasn’t been a great experience, but on a positive note, it’s a reminder of what *not* to do when teaching an online class.

      I agree that the off-topic areas are really helping for making those connections. Even though I never met my classmates face-to-face, it was nice to see some of the same names pop up again. Oddly enough, in one of my classes in the ITEC program, there was a guy that I went to elementary school with, and it turned out that he was married to a woman I graduated with in high school.

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