Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My Online Program... in a Nutshell

I didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I am.

I only have to take one class this semester.  The most I will ever have to take is two.  I need to fit 8 classes into 6 semesters and if all goes according to plan, I will graduate in December 2012.

I only have 2 hours of class per week.  Wednesday evening from 8-10pm.  It sounds late, but my professor is in Australia (sometimes India), our grad assistants are in Illinois, London, and India.  And the students are scattered throughout the world.  So, while 10pm seems late to finish class, try waking up at 2am to have class, which is what some of the people have to do.

I also sit in my pajamas in my comfy computer chair for class... usually accompanied by a glass of wine.

Sounds easy, right?

That's what I thought.  I was sorely mistaken.

It turns out that it is, in fact, like most graduate school programs... difficult.  I have to read SOOO much.  I have lots and lots and lots of writing to do.  [On a side note: I HATE formal writing.  I loathe it.  I am a slow writer, I am a terrible writer, and I have a knack for plagiarizing like no one else I know--but I can't seem to help it.  Writing for a grade is like public speaking for others.  I am embarrassed and scared to DEATH.]  I have to focus for only two hours per week.  But try focusing on a voice that you can barely understand and you CAN'T see about topics you are NOT very interested in for 120 minutes.

Actually, it's usually more like 60 minutes.  The last hour is devoted to group work.  Then our groups come back together and share what we came up with!  That part is fun.

The whole online-learning thing is still a bit foreign to me, but I am becoming more and more intrigued.  And more and more convinced that it is a reputable and efficient style of learning.

We work in a virtual classroom called Elluminate.

.Elluminate Logo

It is super awesome (one of my favorite phrases), and is much like a real classroom, just without people.  Here is an example of what my classroom looks like:

This is obviously not my class.  I am not learning about bicycles.  But for our sake, this is what my class typically looks like.

1.  This is a list of students, professors, and grad assistants who are currently online and logged into the classroom.  It also highlights which people are currently using their microphone, typing, or editing the whiteboard.

2.  These little options give the student an easy way to communicate without typing or turning on their mic.  There are lots of buttons to show or express feelings to the professor.  The "Raise Hand" button will show a blinking hand by your name and your professor can call on you if you have a question.  There are also other buttons that show the professor how you feel.  "Applause",  "Smiley Face", and "Confused" are among the most popular.  We actually have a "dislike" button and it cracks me up when people use it.

3.  Chat box.  You can type all as a class simultaneously.  If you have a question, just type it in the box and everyone can see it.  You can also type private messages to others in the class or to professors.  This is one of the most difficult parts of online learning.  There are people constantly typing, pressing buttons, and chatting all while the professor is lecturing.  If you are not SUPER great at multi-tasking, this can be very frustrating.  The whole two hours move very quickly.

4.  Microphone.  I wear a headset with a microphone attached to it.  If I press the microphone button, I can speak and everyone in the class will hear me through their headset.  I can adjust the volumes here as well.

5.  The whiteboard.  It is like a real whiteboard.  There are 'paint' buttons to the side.  The professor shows a slide and you can copy and paste and add text boxes and such and everyone will see as you are doing it in real time.  This comes in handy mostly in our "rooms".  When we split into groups, we go into four different "Rooms".  Only the people in your room can hear you, see your whiteboard, or text with you.  No one else knows what is going on.  The professors and GAs just jump from room to room and comment on our discussions.  In the rooms, we create our own slide on the whiteboard of our notes that we discussed.  When we come back as a group, we share the slide with the class and use the microphone to describe our discussion.

6.  Video.  We sometimes play youtube videos for everyone to see.  Or if our professor or one of us uses a webcam, that's where we would see it.  We usually don't use webcams, but we watch videos together as a class occasionally. 

There you have it.  An introduction to the next two years of my life.  I will update you later about the actual content of my class/program.  Have a great day :-)

1 comment:

  1. This is a hot topic… and with 30 years in the education field I would like to cry…

    All students are tested on the grade they are in… however we do not instruct them on that level.
    A child in 4th grade learning support takes the same test as the child in 4th grade gifted program. (Do they have LS in South Korea?)

    However with guided math and reading we adjust everything to their tested reading level during the school year.
    When they take the standardized test there are terms and words that are too hard and many children do not have the tools to complete the tested task. (One fifth grade PSSA test had a story about a locomotive – not one child that read this story to me could pronounce it… they had no idea that the article was about a train… and I am not permitted to pronounce the word or explain it to them.) 

    You see, we cannot “leave them behind” (old term—“fail” them) and because of this practice many parents do not push their child... after all he is “passing” why does he need to complete homework or read every night.

    It is very sad to see a sixth grade child reading on a 2nd grade level and believe that this is OK… they do not see the need to practice because they will go on to the next grade anyway.

    I have no solution to solve this problem. I work every day with this struggling child. I love them dearly and my goal is for them to believe in themselves enough to try harder than anyone else. Learning does not come easy to everyone but I believe that every child can learn if they believe and work hard.  Kathi M