Monday, July 19, 2004

my first posting

Be an Active and Participative Instructor
By Jennifer Hofmann

The instructor is the glue that holds together the other four factors (student motivation, useable technology, opportunities to collaborate and interact, and the program blend).
The online instructor plays a vital role in ensuring that learners are successful. Whether delivering a traditional, synchronous, asynchronous or blended approach, participants need to feel as though they have developed a personal rapport with the instructor.
active and participative doesn’t mean excessively communicating with email messages and synchronous lectures. Instead, it means that instructors must create a learner-centered environment. More important, they need to move the focus away from themselves and the technology to the content and the learners.

The instructor can be visibly involved in many ways. He or she can offer recognition, conduct assessments, and facilitate relationships between remote learners. Because assessments are often a key motivator for online learners (people learn what they’re be tested on), the online instructor needs to offer continuous feedback and encourage people to complete assignments in a timely manner. An effective online instructor continually reinforces performance by providing rewards and recognition of achievements.

Although organizations are investing money in technology and programs, they’re not investing in creating effective learning environments that ensure the success of learners. When designing and delivering online learning, strive to implement the following critical success factors:
• adequate student motivation
• opportunity for students to collaborate and interact
• a blend of delivery methods
• useable technology
• an active and participative instructor.

Berge (1995) shows a list of recommendations that the teacher/moderator must be aware of during the planning and implementation of the materials and the course. These recommendations are grouped into four areas: pedagogical (use of discursive resources as to facilitate learning), social (incentive of human relations among members of the group), managerial (establishment of general procedures for discussion and development of activities) and technical (transparency of technology for an adequate relation between the system, the software and the interface selected).

Palloff and Pratt (1999) -- in their book entitled Building Learning Communities in Cyberspace -- work with the four areas proposed by Berge. The authors comment on the importance of each of these areas and give examples based on their own experience in online seminars.

It is important to mention that online teachers have to cope with the roles of becoming the managers and facilitators of the learning process. For a course to be successful, it is necessary that there is an inter-relation among these areas, what has not been discussed deeply in the present literature in respect to the competencies of teaching online. On the other hand, the literature mentions competencies that are unique to online environments. These competencies are: to be able to use technology; to have skills to design and implement courses (depending on the applications to be used); to moderate, organize and archive asynchronous discussions; to establish ground rules, guide and animate synchronous discussions; to integrate different teaching and learning styles to the course; to interact actively with students and give them constant feedback; to make students aware of cultural differences among members of a group, of Internet ethics and netiquettes, among others.

A teacher who wants to work online also needs to understand the nature and philosophy of distance education.

Teaching online also requires a change in the educational paradigm. Whereas in the traditional teaching the learning process is centered on the teacher -- who tries to transfer his/her knowledge to the students --, in online teaching (not merely instructional), the teaching is focused on the relationship between the teacher/student and student/ knowledge. The student is guided to learn to be more autonomous, participative and more responsible for his/her own learning. The new educational paradigm leads the teacher to find educational practices that stimulate this type of online learning.

If, on one hand, there is the challenge created by this type of teaching; on the other hand there are advantages in its use. The democratization of access to education, the flexibility and personalization of learning, the motivation to continued education and learning to learn are some of them. As disadvantages of this type of teaching we can cite, for instance: the feeling of isolation created by the lack of personal contact among the participants of a group and the results of an evaluation done at a distance. Even though this type of evaluation doesn«t seem as reliable as that of face-to-face education if one considered the possibilities of fraud and plagiarism, one cannot deny that these facts can also occur in classroom teaching.

Online Course
All effective online programs require an initial serious planning of the proposed objectives of the course and careful studies of the profile, characteristics and needs of the students. The technology can only be selected after a critical analysis of its appropriateness to the objectives and the content of the course, and the ways it is going to be used with and by the students.

In order to take advantage of the use of synchronous and asynchronous communication in an online course, teachers need to reflect upon the objectives of the course, and then design and implement activities that integrate these tools to the course to be delivered.

According to Moran2, an online course of good quality is that "makes us think, involves us actively, brings significant contributions and connects us with people, experiences and interesting ideas" 3. The author complements the idea saying that, besides the content, the course must present better elaborated materials (which unfold in a hypertextual format, through links and other resources), lead to research and the joint production, as well as the personalization of the process of teaching and learning. The proposal presented by Moran is complemented by Lévy (1999) when he says that most important than the hypertextual techniques and tools to be used in distance education and open learning is the "pedagogical style" adopted. Lévy adds the importance of the teacher as the "animator of the collective intelligence" of the groups of students and as the guider of the individual learning process.

One of the real changes that the use of education in online mode brought refers to the teacher. He/She takes the role of a guider who helps the students to search for, select and organize the information, to manage the time and the studies and to construct knowledge in an autonomous way or in virtual learning communities. While playing the role of the students« motivator of the whole learning process, the educator also integrates and forms groups for discussion, research and accomplishment of the tasks.

The critical reflection about the teacher who works with distance education as a methodological tool is linked to the context of learning (mediated by technology), to the methods (different than those used in the classroom), to the students, to the teacher own computer literacy (hardware, software and technical support needed), and other matters permeated by the digital culture, psychology, time management and concepts of what should be learned.

According to Belloni the relationship between education and technology implies in "that the use of \OE technologyâ (in the sense of technical artifact), in a teaching and learning situation, must be followed by a reflection about the \OE technologyâ (in the sense of knowledge embedded in the artifact and in its context of production and utilization)" (2001, p. 53).4

The work of structuring and implementing educational projects in distance education depends not only on the technology but mainly on the teacher.

Emergent Educational Paradigm
The paradigmatic-educational change can be expressed through the comparison established/shown in the chart that follows:

Actual Paradigm Emergent Paradigm

To relation to
Teacher (how it is)
How it should be...

Teacher Has and transmits knowledge
Guides the studies

Receives contents in a passive way
Interacts with contents, groups and learns in an autonomous way.

Place for knowledge transmission.
Place for construction and exchange of knowledge.

Process of hierarchical transmission from teacher to student
Process of exchange between members of the group which is integrated by the teacher

Learning and Studies
Obligatory, punishable
Pleasant (conduct to one«s growth)

Curricular Contents
Pre-established in a rigid and restricted format
Flexible and open structure that can lead to multiple paths.

Technological Media (NCT) ÷ New Communications Technologies
Used only to call attention to a certain theme and to make it more "agreeable"
It«s part of the spacial environment of the classroom and presents different types of integrated simultaneous media

Tecnology ÷ Educational Informatics
The teacher is afraid of being replaced by an instructional machine
The machine is seen as an element to stimulate learning

Use of NCT -- New Communications Technologies
The NCTs are used by the teacher who structures his/her classes in advance
Both teachers and students use the NCTs, what makes it possible to exchange knowledge and ideas


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