I am nearing the end of OLTD 501, Introduction to Online Learning - Competencies and Environments, which is the first of ten courses in the VIU program. OLTD 501 has examined best and promising practices of online learning, and it has encouraged me as a DL teacher to think more deeply about teaching and learning in an online environment.
Readings on the history of distance education and online learning have followed the evolution of distance education from the late 1800s. From the correspondence model of distance education, to connectivism and connective knowledge, I am keenly interested to see how distance education continues to evolve. The implementation and evolution of various delivery systems, and the evolution and refinement of methods of communication (i.e., two-way interactive communication, synchronous or asynchronous), have illustrated that: “The Internet is perhaps the most transformative technology in history ... There is no going back. The traditional classroom has been transformed” (Web-Based Education Commission, 2000, p.1).
In OLTD 501, a study of the theory of distance education has traced major theoretical developments and contributions by prominent theorists who have influenced the field of distance education. We have studied learning design models, and our cohort group has contributed to a “Big Wigs” (Theorists) blogsite. The Sociocultural Context and Theoretical Challenges outlined in the OLTD reading: Distance Education, Selected sections (pg. 355-398, Gunawardena and McIsaac) are areas that interest me greatly. As noted, “There is a widespread notion that technology is culturally neutral, and can easily be used in a variety of settings. (McIsaac, 1993) … Technology-based learning activities are frequently used without attention to the impact on the local social environment.” This theoretical knowledge will help me to reexamine and reshape my practice (and learning design model) as I move forward.
Finally, the OLTD 501 weekly Blackboard Collaborate sessions and the interactions within D2L, the VIU learning management system, have been rich with engaging dialogue and thought-provoking questions. I have been fortunate to learn with Instructor Mary O’Neill and our very insightful and talented cohort group. We have been encouraged to use a variety of online tools and Web-based applications, and we have spent time collaborating online to produce artefacts of learning. A Learning Design Model (using online drawing tools – i.e., SmartDraw, Gliffy) and a Pecha Kucha (using PowerPoint and Creative Commons image sources) are two of the activities that have encouraged us to think about our own practice and how we can apply what we have learned. An introduction to RefWorks (a bibliography management system, accessed through the VIU library) has allowed us to probe deeper and is a tool I plan to spend more time using. OLTD has been a terrific learning journey so far, and this Weebly Webspace (created for OLTD) is where my reflections and documentation of the journey occur. I am on the tracks, and I look forward to seeing where the journey goes!