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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Frustrations with Online Learning

Frustrations with Online Learning

Related Tags: Classroom Technology
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55 Replies 1345 Views
I thought we should have a discussion forum where we can discuss things that really frustrate us with online learning. Ideally, this would be a constructive discussion, with contributors suggesting solutions for our frustrations. So, here goes my biggest frustration: Assessment and Marking. How can we take the paper out of the online learning process? I can get students to learn and complete work online. I can get them to submit work online. But when it comes to marking the work and giving feedback, I am yet to find a system that is as quick and as efficient - as well as meaningful - as simply writing comments on a printout of student work. I've tried editing via word processing, but that is cumbersome. I've tried using a digital pen, but that lacked the precision I needed. So, any ideas out there?

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Gess Healey's picture
Gess Healey
Second Grade Teacher Public School

I am currently working on my Masters Degree through Lesley University. One of the last papers I wrote, in lieu of a final reflection, was a letter to the director of the program advocating that the Lesley Program NOT be reduced to a series of online courses. I can appreciate that some find them convenient, but I have never chosen an online course throughout my career. The entire cohort agrees that developing and cultivating our community was vital to our drive to do our best and advance our group. We are a cohort that shares encouragement and empathy for one another; I wouldn't have it any other way.

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Hi Gess,
Interesting point that you make; in some ways, I am the exact opposite. I recently completed my masters in a completely online way; the only time I stepped into the university was for my graduation! For me, the strength of doing the work in this way was that I was able to work at a time that best suited me - whether that was early in the morning or late at night. I felt that my cohort did communicate well, via online discussions which were moderated by the lecturers, although different lecturers did this more or less effectively than others.

However, there were times when I did want to talk to someone face to face; you know, just a question to ask - was this right or something similar.

Anyway, just thought I'd share my experience - sort of the other side of the coin.


Charlene Ashton's picture

If the courses are from a regionally accredited college or university this makes no sense. The accreditation process requires the course to be the equivalent of an onsite course and also requires the university to provide access to appropriate services (library, advising, etc.)for online students.

Irene Smith's picture

I have found markup in Microsoft Word to be effective, but you have to teach students how to use it before you can expect them to engage with it.

John Thompson's picture

on the CMS/LMS that you're using. If you want students to submit written work using drop boxes, which are a part of most CMSs, then you can download their papers to Word. Then use the Comments function to create text boxes with your comments, corrections, etc. Then attach/upload the students' papers after you save them. I do that for marking up my master's project students' papers. Seems to do the trick.

Mrs. W's picture
Mrs. W
5-8 Language Arts and History Teacher

I'm currently working on my master's completely online. I love it. My husband also completed his master's completely online, and liked it although that was in the earliest forms of completely online learning and it's come a long way since then.

I like the flexability of it. I don't have to drive to class, and can do my work anytime. I have a great cohort of people that we discuss, chat, and exchange ideas just as if we were sitting in class together. The first two classess weeded out the people that did not like online learning or couldn't figure it out.

I agree that giving feedback of assessments in online learning is a challenge. If work is done in microsoft word you can add textboxes, and use editing features. One prof I had experiemented with videoconferencing, but the technology available and the way it was done it was not very successful.

It always seems in online learning that there is a technology glitch when something is due or when you need the internet the most. My computer got a virus when I was turing in the final project for my first online class. Luckly I had an understanding professor that helped me work through everything. Sometimes as the teacher you have to be understanding instead of being frusterated at technology.

Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Hi Mrs W,
I totally agree with your comments regarding online learning. I, too, thoroughly enjoyed the flexibility of the online learning course. Although I did take part in some great online discussions, I did still feel like I was missing something in not having face to face contact.

The times that I missed this the most was when I was just wanting to make sure that I understood a concept fully, and I just wanted to talk to a colleague or the lecturer for three minutes to clarify.

Still, I think the flexibility argument certainly outweighs a few minor gripes. Funny you mention assessment; I had one lecturer who used track changes and comments, but most printed out my essays, wrote all over them and posted them home!

Michael Baker's picture

There are a growing number of tools that are helping online collaboration. Google Apps for Education, Wikis, Social Bookmarking, Virtual Classrooms, video streaming, etc...

I think more about the logistics now. Standard asynchronous classes require a large amount of support and motivation in order move students through the coursework. Synchronous courses give great interaction and real-time responses, but are difficult to schedule. Hybrid approaches and alternative uses of time are very different ways to look at education. These type of interactions have great potential, but need more exposure in order to build awareness.

Dan Pink wrote about 'Functional Fixedness' in Drive. This is the inability for individuals to see a tool for more than its original purpose. A lot of what I do has never been done or only in a very limited way. Building awareness in order to break functional fixedness has been my biggest frustration. I'm not giving up. =)


John Thompson's picture

"I just wanted to talk to a colleague or the lecturer for three minutes to clarify." -- Why not simply call the instructor? Just because you're in an asynchronous online course does not preclude direct communication with the instructor. I give my cellphone number to my students so they can call me. However, I've seen a reluctance for students to do that. Seems they prefer e-mail, which is fine with me as it provides documentation that a phone call does not.

You say: "A lot of what I do has never been done or only in a very limited way." -- I'm curious. Can you give us an example?

Michael Baker's picture


A few examples of the 'never been done befores'.

1. I created provisional contracts for all online learners. This creates an experimental period when students can see what online courses are like, but forces the student to prove their dedication to the work. Asynchronous coursework requires a lot of self-motivation.

2. Student wikis. Every student in third through fifth grade received his/her own private wiki to build and play as a prosumer.

3. Hybrid courses. We now have students who spend most of his/her day at home doing work, but come into the district for one or two offerings.

4. Cognitive Training. We did a pilot last Spring with Lumosity.com. We gave 90 students access to this cognitive training site to experiment with this rising field. By focusing on neuroplasticity, we are looking at how exercising the mind might improve performance.

5. Social Professional Development. I have run a social professional development model for the last three years based on the ideas I put together below.

6. Technology Integrators. Last year we launched the technology integrators program within my district. Representatives from around the district were selected by their teams in order build Awareness, Play with new technologies, Demonstrate how these technologies are being used and Sharing with other educators.

This Fall we will be launching Google Apps for Education and the elementary computer classes will be fully moved into the cloud. Students will have access to all applications and resources from any computer they can access the Internet.

I am always looking for new and exciting ideas to try out. I hope this helps. I'd encourage others to post exciting approaches that are bringing diversity into education.

~I'd rather be different than right. MB

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