December 10, 2010

Collaborative Learning Environments: Online Vs. Traditional Classrooms

Adjuncting. Can I use that as a verb?. It certainly feels as if I'm in action, from the keyboarding and mousing my facilitation of online courses to the cardio world of last-minute tie tying, speed limit pushing, and eventually in-front-of-the-whiteboard pacing for the on-campus night courses I teach.

It does help to know that I am not alone, though. My students...they are with me, right? We're collaborating--no matter in what setting the learning takes place. Woohoo!

But is the online learning environment more collaborative than the traditional one? Why in classroom settings am I always referred to as an instructor; whereas, for online courses I'm trained to be more of a facilitator?

Collaborative learning environments create a setting in which the facilitator takes an andragogical approach to teaching rather than a pedagogical one. This approach better fits adult learners that are more autonomous in how they acquire and apply information. Coupled with the online classroom, the facilitator’s role is to establish the tempo of the asynchronous learning environment.

In traditional settings, instructors and students depend upon live interactions for feedback. Here, an instructor’s interpretation of student comprehension may be limited to the scheduled hours spent with the class. In contrast, the online facilitator elicits ongoing class discussions which require students to respond to the facilitator while also encouraging them to build collaboratively with their peers.

Having experienced both learning environments as an instructor as well as a student, I feel that each hold their value in their own unique ways. Being an English major, I appreciate the lively debates that the asynchronous model allows because its flexibility fosters critical thinking and research skills. On the other hand, if I were to take a math course, I would choose a traditional setting for more immediate feedback.

As a composition instructor, the online learning environment is appealing to me because it contains aspects of a writing workshop, establishing me as the facilitator and my students as a collaborative learning team. Yes, learning through a workshop model is possible in a physical classroom, but I often feel the students expect to receive actual instruction from the other side of their desks.

What say you? Please indicate in my poll to the ------>.

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