Enriching Online Learning

Seven participants from across the United States AND one from Fiji, one from UK, another from Peru and three from Toronto!!! What a rich, diverse, provocative learning experience we had! Virtual, online classes provide us all with the exceptional opportunity to expand our cultural reach to learn from anyone, anywhere, about any topic. A true gift, indeed. Not surprising that we are experiencing a rapid increase in the demand for online instruction.

As excited as we may be about this potential, often that little voice in the back of our heads niggles us with “Can I learn as much online/virtually as I do face-to-face with my teacher and fellow participants?”

As Dialogue Education practitioners, it is our responsibility—and privilege—to design online and virtual learning events that provide the same engaging, rigorous, accountable learning structures that our DE face-to-face classes do. We can do it!!! We have copious principles, practices, tools and systems to access and support us.

To be true to principles of DE (respect, engagement, relevance, immediacy, inclusion, safety, etc.) it is important to shift the paradigm of online learning from an emphasis only on knowledge/topic input to DE learning-centered structures that  generate “learning at the cellular level” which results in sustainable transfer.  (See Traditional/Learning-Centered comparison here.)   

This includes honoring in our online designs, as we do in our face-to-face classes, how the brain learns as articulated by James E. Zull in The Art of Changing the Brain: Enriching the Practice of Teaching by Exploring the Biology of Learning.  (See Zull-DE Collaborates here.)

Three mantras that will help you focus on DE engagement as you design Learning Tasks are:

1.Opportunities for participant-to-participant and participant-to-teacher dialogue

As we DE practitioners know, dialogue—with others and with the content—expands learning.  Zull’s brain research shows that learning is the outcome of experience (248). When learners wrestle with the content and “do” what they are learning, they construct their own understanding by building on what they already know.

2.Blend of techniques to maximize learning styles

A plethora of methods, techniques and tools exist on the internet to respect every learning preference–visual, auditory, kinesthetic, dialogue, musical, spatial, verbal, and all the rest of our multiple intelligences. Creativity, variety, resourcefulness abound.

3.Relevant technology that enhances learning

The technology we use must heighten the learning experience without creating a barrier to that learning. We must always ask “How will this tool enhance the learning?” rather than using it just because it’s “cool.”

Taking advantage of technology and DE principles allow students to interact with the material and content of the course in a different way than a traditional face-to-face course. The variety of ways instruction can take advantage of the online environment of today will provide a rich and interactive learning experience.

What enriched learning have you experienced in an online course, either as a teacher or a participant?