Humanness – Article Review #2

After reading a quantitative heavy piece this week, I wanted to search for an article that discussed the human side of online learning. I wanted to bring some emotion back into online learning education. So I found an article that I thought was particularly interesting, it is titled,  High Tech and High Touch: The Human Face of Online Education.  This article focuses on the learner as a partner in the learning process. “This chapter explores the human face of online education through an examination of the subjective experiences of both the learner and course facilitator, including the emotional and perceptual changes that impact learners and facilitators in this new educational experience.” (MacFadden, et al. 2002) For many students, online learning is new and requires a new set of skills. Learning these new skills can be challenging and problems can arise.

The authors discuss technophobia which is a condition that causes anxiety when dealing with new technology. “Brosnan associates technophobia with anxiety, prior experience, confidence, self-efficacy, cognitive style, and persistence.” (MacFadden, et al. 2002) These emotional reactions to new learning environments can cause students to disengage from the learning process. At Northwest Indian College we are currently transitioning from Moodle to Canvas software for our online courses. I see students and instructors with anxiety over learning new technology. Some instructors continue to use their preferred videoconferencing software, in most cases it is Zoom, instead of learning how to use the teleconferencing on Canvas. The software Zoom requires a subscription, which means the instructor would rather pay their subscription to Zoom instead of learning how to use Canvas. Students alike have anxiety about Canvas. One student came to my office last quarter and asked if he could send his discussion responses directly to his instructor. He was not Native and didn’t grow up in an Indigenous community. He didn’t know if his responses to the discussion questions would offend any of his fellow classmates and didn’t feel comfortable writing on the discussion board  for them all to see. He made an observation that stuck with me about online discussion boards. He said that people are more comfortable saying what they really feel while discussing topics online. This made him uncomfortable because if he said the wrong thing, he feared students would lash out at him. The authors suggest creating a positive learning environment and use a variety of instructional strategies. “Rather than focus solely on the cognitive and motivational processes, these authors emphasize the importance of a sound emotional experience to learning.” (MacFadden, et al. 2002)

This perspective is really interesting to me because in Indigenous research and Indigenous education, one of the most important pieces to create an engaged classroom is the relationship. In Indigenous communities relationships are so important. The instructor cannot engage learning without first building a relationship with their students. The authors suggest the course facilitator create a safe environment for their students. “The facilitators suspected that given the virtual environment was new to both themselves and to the learners, that the constructivist educational principles of being ‘guides’ and ‘co-learners’ with participants would apply more online than it did in their onground teaching.” (MacFadden, et al. 2002) The instructors in the Native Studies department are attempting to serve as guides throughout the transition to Canvas. But as the instructors continue to learn about the software themselves and don’t always have all the answers, it is sometimes difficult. The first day of videoconferencing class is usually spent walking students through the course webpage. There are some students who are completely new to online learning and some that have used Moodle in the past. There are very few students who have used Canvas before. So we are all learning.

I chose this article because I feel its important to ensure we are creating a learning environment for our students. And I think its important to include the humanness to online learning. Students are human and have emotions directly linked to the technology they use. And as an educator I need to take that into consideration as well.

Works Cited:

MacFadden, R.J., Maiter, S., & Dumbrill, G.C. (2002).  High Tech and High Touch: The Human Face of Online Learning.  Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Press, Inc.

3 thoughts on “Humanness – Article Review #2

  1. Nice writeup Lexi! It’s great that you’re so able to relate the research topics you’re reading to the context of your work. I can certainly relate to the anxiety and lack of motivation to learn the latest and greatest technology. Especially in a educational system where the students are expected to absorb and retain topical information in addition to the technology aspect. I would imagine that the technophobia phenomenon is generally applied to older generations rather than children currently enrolled in the K-12 system? Your observation about the instructor paying out of pocket for a program they were already proficient with rather than learn a new one is spot on. I would likely be in that position as well. The biggest challenge is the time required to learn and become confident with new technology. Our energy is being pulled in so many directions in this age, it’s tough to commit the time to learn something without first seeing the benefit that will be gained through learning it. I wonder if students at your school have been explicitly shown why life will be easier or learning more efficient with Canvas as opposed to Zoom? It seems like taking time to lay out pro’s and con’s of the new system and having a proactive support network in place would boost the human element while guiding students toward the end result the college is after.

  2. Hi Lexie,

    I too liked your example of faculty willing to pay for ZOOM rather than learning videoconferencing through Canvas. For many, tools are just the means to their ends – actually just teaching their subject. As Craig mentioned, the additional load is a real thing. And it is for students too. I’ve heard the argument that we’re doing students a favor by exposing them to a variety of platforms and technologies, WordPress, Blackboard, Canvas, etc… What do you think? Standardize or subject our students (and faculty) to a variety of technologies to increase their literacy?

    You mentioned: “I feel its important to ensure we are creating a learning environment for our students. And I think its important to include the humanness to online learning.” Did the authors give any specific advice on how to do this? Was their paper a reasonable source of information toward this end?

    Again, nice reflections on your own experiences.


  3. Lexie – I find this topic really personal…I used to be one of those people who felt more comfortable discussing controversial topics online. There’s so little pressure, so little judgement, when you post online. I’m not saying I was particularly vitriolic like you might find on YouTube, but I certainly am used to a kind of freedom when posting on, say, tumblr, or Reddit, or whatever, than I am used to in classes.

    A lot of that is changing, though. As we move more towards a “real name” online world, it’s certainly gotten harder to feel like you can “really” speak your mind. I’ve not particularly had that issue in classes because I’ve gotten over that anxiety, but I can understand how stressful that is for some people. I hate to sound heartless, but I kind of think…you should just get over it? I guess? If you’re worried about being offensive, then maybe the thing you’re saying is offensive.

    The bigger issue I’m thinking about is how general social anciety affects online interactions with face-to-face peers. I’ve never suffered from social anxiety, so it’s not something I particularly understand.

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