*My online classroom trends and the different roles I play as an instructor.

A background scenario to consider : Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do. I came across this quote recently but I cannot remember where I first read it. It felt as though I have always known this expression and it stuck to the back of mind, emerging every now and then when I needed some inspiration for teaching programming languages. I wondered if I had heard it from recitals of Bhagavad Gita as I was growing up, but I thought that can’t be true. The Gita discusses the nature and value of ‘Knowledge’ from a spiritual perspective but this quote seems to point toward knowledge that is more worldly in nature.

Last week, as I was doing some “Googling” to find inspiration for writing this blog, I came across this expression once again and this time I learned that it was a quote by the German writer and statesman, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The interesting part about this finding is not in learning that this is a quote by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe but to find that Google listed a link to goodreads.com and at least one more link, that claimed that this is a quote by Hong Kong-American actor Bruce Lee.

Goodreads.com appeared to be a well respected source of information and close to 300 people had viewed and liked this quote at this site! No one had made any attempt to question the accuracy of this information. That means, not just one or two people but hundreds had accepted this to be a quote from Bruce Lee. Looking back at this finding, I will classify these 300 people as “followers”; a non-questioning behavior pattern that I found to be common among the “connected” generation of the 21st century.

As an online instructor, I have observed similar behavior patterns among many of my program participants. While these participants understood and accepted that the internet is plagued by misinformation, many either failed to question ideas that were presented to them by various online resources during their research or failed to verify the accuracy of the information they had found.

I have observed similar behaviour in online forums as well. Some participants who are unsure of the subject matter tended to agree, accept and or lean towards what appeared to be the popular view point, without much questioning. I have spoken to my program participants and learned that they trusted contents (white papers, articles, reports, etc ) presented to them by sites that “appear” professional.

Some participants also mentioned that online forums and articles with large number of positive comments and “likes” cannot be wrong and they feel comfortable to go with the flow. Most of these participants said that they didn’t read the details but skimmed through much of the resources that they found online, thereby missing the information that may otherwise have raised a red flag.

Most of them agreed to feeling overwhelmed by the amount of web design and development information that is available on the internet. Most of them agreed that “skimming” has become a habit that makes it difficult for them to take the time for deeper reflection on the information that they read online, including course materials.

This observation of my program participants has led me to be always on guard to detect the followers in my program in order to engage them in activities that will help them develop new thinking skills. That means, for learning activities that involves online research, very naturally my role switches from a lecturer to a “guide” in steering participants towards key areas that will benefit them in their learning.

I also tie the process of guiding program participants to my other objectives, such as developing their critical thinking skills, developing their awareness of industry players and their agendas and developing a vision for their own participation and future role in the industry, among other things. With these added objectives, very naturally my role evolves to include the role of a motivator, mentor and program facilitator.

I expect my role as an instructor to continue to evolve with the changing trends in online education. This experience is not too different from the online education trend mentioned in the 2013 Horizon report:

The role of educators continues to change due to the vast resources that are accessible to students via the Internet. Institutions are now faced with a critical shift as students engage in more informal learning outside of the classroom, and are using always-connected devices to surf the web , download apps, and read articles . Educating learners on how to decipher credible resources and aggregate content has become imperative, and there is a need for university educators to fulfill the position of content guide. The emergence of MOOCs, open content, and free online seminars also raises the question of who is considered the expert. Educators are providing mentorship and connecting students with the most effective forums and tools to navigate their areas of study.


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