it’s been almost two weeks since the past time my PBL group had a hangout and i have to say it has felt odd. i had to leave the hangout early because of the stomach flu (gotta love november) so the goodbye felt rushed, but at the time i thought “we’ll just talk again on sunday like we do every week, so it’s no big deal.” but that wasn’t true. sad face, for real.
this is the first, and perhaps most important, thing i learned in this course: i was totally, completely, utterly wrong in my skepticism about the possibility of building meaningful connections and experiencing impactful learning without actual face-to-face contact. at the beginning of the course i had no reference point for online learning, and when i tried to imagine all my experience in classroom learning transported to the internet, it just didn’t work. i expected a feeling of disconnectedness, and yet what i found instead was a connection so impactful that i’ve felt like something is missing these past two weeks.
so i stand corrected, and now recognize that with the right approach and a bit of work, an online learning environment can be rich and challenging and rewarding.
but i do mean that you need the right approach. we talked a lot about this in my PBL group and we all agreed that this was the critical threshold we needed to overcome. you can read a bit about it in our group’s final wiki. i have to say that putting together this final summary was a really rewarding task because it gave us a chance to reflect as a group. these final reflective blog posts are good for our individual learning, but given that the group work was such a central part of the course, it would have felt strange to not reflect as a group as well.
i’ve already been able to implement little things i’ve learned in this course. while it’s true that some things weren’t new to me, the way i used them in the course opened my eyes to greater possibilities and helped me see ways that i can enhance even my classroom teaching by making better use of digital tools and online learning approaches. as we discussed in our final group reflection, i’m so glad to have gained access to the resources that ONL has gathered, and even if i didn’t work through all parts of the course literature, i know that i will come back to it when the need arises.
and i believe that’s the best indicator of the real impact this course has had on me: at the end of the course, i know that i will use what i’ve learned and delve deeper into the things i haven’t yet mastered, which means that the course has changed the way i see part of the world and that it will continue to influence my approach to teaching and learning as i move forward in my career. that’s the real goal of university teaching, isn’t it? we want our students to take something we teach them and use it in the future. we want them to turn these ideas over in their minds and adapt them to new situations, and we hope that they’ll take the material we offer with them when they leave, not because we’ve told them it’s important, but because they truly see its value for their own pursuits.
at the end of the road, as i recover from internet explorers withdrawal and let my identity as a student take the back seat again, i’m glad for the reminder of what it feels like to be a student and for the new perspectives that i will bring with me to my work as a teacher.