Future of Online Learning and Final Thoughts

I had a great opportunity to enroll in the course, Designing and Developing Online Distance Learning at the University of Minnesota, taught/facilitated by Angel Pazurk, this fall 2013 semester, and couldn’t be more excited to continue pursuing my interest in online learning. As the semester comes to a close, I wanted to capture some final thoughts on my learning experiences in this online course. Below are three takeaways the capture those final thoughts. 

1. Student-centered learning is integral to the future of education. As educators, we must continue to focus everything on the student, and how he/she learns, and adjust the design and development of the course, module, or system, to fit each individual student.

2. Technology will continue to evolve very quickly and change education. There are still numerous arguments for and against the integration of technology into learning environments, even today, when technology for most of us (but certainly not all of us) is a HUGE part of our lives. It’s important that researchers, practitioners, and educators continue to use technology that enhances the entire learning process and allows students to EXPERIENCE learning (per Stephen Brookfield [2006]) better. 

3. Online learning and the future of education. The future of education is moving more and more towards more online learning opportunities, BUT, there are still key components of face to face (f2f) interactions that provide learners an opportunity to connect and learn from each other. As people continue to build online environments and courses, they must be creative and thoughtful in how to create those f2f experiences online.

There are many more interesting things I gained from my experiences with this online course, and I hope to take everything I learned and apply them to my role in the development of customized training opportunities for practitioners in the Minnesota, and to my future opportunities in education and online learning.  

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Much to Learn about Online Learning

I come into the start of the course, Designing and Developing Online Learning, as a novice.  I have yet to teach or facilitate an online course. But, the idea of online instruction fascinates me. I have always had an interest in the design of instruction, even since my childhood. I remember always thinking about and critiquing my teachers growing up. I had some pretty bad ones, that’s for sure. But, there were also some really good ones that prepared me for my future, and they did it well. My interest in online teaching has come after my interest in technology evolved. I graduated as an undergrad with a degree in environmental studies with an emphasis in geographic information sciences, or GIS. I always knew I wanted to incorporate technology into something, whether it be environmental or not. I worked for about 9 months as a GIS manager, then realized, sitting at a computer all day manipulating data wasn’t for me (the company also really sucked, too!). Over the past seven years, employed at the University of Minnesota, my technology interest has further evolved through some of my current professional work at the Center for Transportation Studies. (CTS) My position at CTS previously focused on K12 and college-level curriculum development to integrate transportation issues into classes and expose transportation careers to students. While my work in this area has been light over the past few years, I’ve continued to think about opportunities to integrate transportation issues and instruction into the classroom, through an online course.  I was able to take this idea and apply in Aaron Doering’s Online Adventure Learning class.  To further align my interests, I’ve been given the opportunity to teach a freshman level course through the College of Engineering and Science (CSE) called First Year Experience. It’s a requirement for all freshman, and is one-credit. I’m into my second year of teaching the course to 40 students, I am always thinking of new innovations to integrate into the classroom, to make the course better. This year, I’m using Twitter and the awesomely developed Flipgrid (developed by the Learning Technologies Lab) in my class. I look forward to seeing how the students enjoy using these tools.

But, back to the online learning. I am most interested in being involved in the development of online learning, as to me. Online learning has been around for awhile, but I think there are so many new opportunities for us to consider in the area of online learning, and having the opportunity to be involved in something new and innovative, excites me. I also know there is a huge opportunity to do a better job of “training” instructors in higher education to teach online courses, and I’d like to be a part of that. I really don’t have any concerns about online teaching at this point. I’d like to try and learn as much as I can about the effective use of online learning and integration of online learning, so I can help others be successful in their development as well. I’m also a bit new to the learning technologies area in general. LT is soooo exciting!!! 🙂

As for the impact of online learning, it’s the future of education and is already making huge impacts.  Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have been all over the news this past year and they continue to make headlines. MOOCs are one potential disruptive technology as we advance into the future. I believe there are many more to come, and having great people like those in this class, learning from each other, will help to advance the area of online learning to be better for all learners, young and old. I look forward to learning great things in the class that will prepare me for the world of online learning, whether I teach my own courses or become an expert in helping others (faculty, etc.) design and develop their own courses. Look forward to working with you all during the next 14 weeks! Go LT!!

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