The most important lesson I gathered from these courses was how dramatically different learning is in an online environment compared to a f2f environment. Technology, such as that used in these courses, is both a blessing and, at times, an immense frustration. The second most important lesson for me, was the appreciating the importance of social presence in an online environment. If you marry the use of difficult technology with a lack of a clear leader it can make it very hard for a student to remain motivated!
With that said, I learned a lot from these courses. On a pedagogical level, I certainly appreciated being challenged to stop thinking about “good students” and “bad students” but rather to look for ways to get all students to engage critically with the material. In this respect, technology can be a blessing. With so much at your fingertips there are many different resources you can use to try and trigger a student to think critically about an issue.
As I said in my previous post, at times I was very frustrated by WordPress (and even now I still have much to learn about it); but I did also come to appreciate the power of the platform. When I was feeling lost because I didn’t know anyone to interview I could go back and look at other OLFM’s interviews. This was a great example of peer-learning. I could relate to, learn from, and engage with their posts, even after they had already finished the course.
The learning strategy that I probably found the most effective was the use of videos to try and create better social presence. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have taken an online course with blogs and audio and did not find it to be as engaging as these courses that incorporated videos. I certainly intend to incorporate this into my courses going forward.
Did you engage in each of the phases of the critical inquiry process?
- Were you able to resolve any problems or dilemmas?
Yes – at a simple level, I couldn’t initially figure out how to upload my video to WordPress as the file size exceeded what was permitted. I solved it by setting up a YouTube channel, uploading the video to YouTube and then linking to the YouTube video.
- What might you do differently in a future course?
I have not taught an online course before, so it is all new to me. With that said, I will certainly try to make effective use of both blogs and videos to try and build social presence.
- How might you engage with your students to ensure that they are working through the entire inquiry process?
By utilizing the five strategies that I set out in my Learning Activities Portfolio.
- Do you think that working through this course in an open platform like WordPress helps to encourage reflective learning?
I do think working through these 3 courses has been very valuable and has encouraged reflective learning. Forcing me to go through these courses as a learner has certainly opened my eyes to some of the issues students face and caused me to critically engage with the 3 courses themselves as well as causing me to reflect on ways in which I might improve my teaching.
Specifically with respect to WordPress: as several others have noted, it has pushed me outside my comfort zone and forced me to learn some new tools that I like and will certainly use again in the future.
As someone who is completely new to being an OLFM and who has not yet taught a course, I do not yet know a colleague to interview.
However, in an effort to engage, I have searched through the earlier posts on this topic and read the other interviews I could find.
One comment that Wayne Singular made, and one that I am also struggling with, is that the course I will be teaching was not created by me. From what I gather I will be teaching a pre-packaged course, with pre-packaged assessments. This seems to defeat a lot of what I learned through these 3 courses, and doesn’t seem to be ideal from a pedagogical point of view. Surely, it is preferable to encourage the instructor to find ways to create deep and meaningful educational experiences through control over the content of the course?
Two key lessons I have learned through reading these other posts are:
- Encouraging students to set a timeframe for completion of the course will be helpful and then following up, by email, with the students weekly.
- Teaching in an online environment requires more patience than a f2f environment. Social presence is harder to develop. As instructors, it is up to us to find more creative ways of engaging our students.
Although I have identified five strategies, as required, and categorized them in my “Learning Activities Portfolio” I cannot figure out how to get the menu into my header and then how to link to it.
4. Movie Time!
A strategy I have found useful in my face-to-face courses has been to have students watch a movie about the law and then write a reflection paper on the movie. Most students seem to really enjoy this; many of them empathize with the characters and are quite passionate in their reviews! Suddenly, the subject matter of the course seems less dry and boring when a student can relate to it through a story with emotional characters. Erin Brockovich is great, but for a course in employment law, I would probably assign them North Country:
2. Meaningful Image
Post an image of something that is important to you on the course blog and then ask students to post an image of something that is important to them and ask them to explain why.
I particularly liked this exercise and thought that it could be modified and used as a good ice-breaker.
3. Current News Story
Require students to search the news for a current news article on the subject matter of the course and post this on the course blog, together with a comment. In the context of commercial law, this is fairly easy as many news stories have a component of commercial law. It may be slightly harder in the employment law context, but with the world at one’s fingertips, I don’t expect it will be too difficult! Take this as an example:
5. Write your ideal contract
At some point in time almost everyone will be an employee. Many people don’t have written contracts, and many don’t know what terms they should be looking for. As a practical matter, each student in this course should be able to incorporate what they have learned and draft their ideal contract. In my experience, practical tips help keep student interest alive. If nothing else, it will provide them with some things to look at out for in their next jobs:
- Video Introduction
This really is easier than you may think. Using your cellphone to record a video is simple. It took me a while to figure out how to upload it into WordPress, but I found that setting up a YouTube channel was simple, and it took only a couple of clicks on my phone to upload my video to my YouTube channel. Then, you can just cut and paste the YouTube url into the WordPress blog. Done! Now, you are a friendly face (hopefully) and a source of encouragement to your students.
Two learning outcomes for a hypothetical employment law course:
- Identify the common-law factors in determining reasonable notice
- Apply your knowledge of the law to determine the appropriate period of notice in a given situation (e.g. 60 year-old car salesman who has worked for his employer for last 20 years)
Aligned learning activities:
- Read the textbook
- Watch video on wrongful dismissal
- Post comment on course blog about whether you think the factors (particularly age of employee) make sense
- Read case of Inskip v. Jacobsen Ford Motors on www.canlii.org
- Complete assignment for grading: “You Be the Judge!”