My Cup of Tea

This week’s reading was not my cup of tea. But I learned a great deal about the literature surrounding online learning. There were a few discussion points I wanted to write about this week, one being the concept of objectivity and the research design. In the literature review summary, the authors discuss the relevance of the articles. They mention possible biases with research produced by teachers currently in the field. I believe this can be argued both ways. On one hand, teachers bring expertise to the field that a researcher hired by the Department of Education may not be able. I’ve heard this happen before when I was touring immersion schools in Hawaii. Language immersion schools have been operating in Hawaii for over 25 years. They are present in public school systems and charter school systems. When it came time to redesign their assessment strategies the Department of Education preferred a standardized test for all immersion schools. The state then hired consultants to create the test and the people hired  did not work in the immersion schools. They created tests that were accurate in the Hawaiian language but did not reflect immersion at the K-12 level. Students were confused and teachers were afraid students would fail these tests. This is an example of expertise versus outside objective consultants leans more toward the expertise in the field. Though there is value to hiring objective consults for some research jobs. If the Department of Education would like to know whether or not online learning is more effective than face-to-face learning, they might want to hire an outsider to conduct the study. They may feel that face-to-face instructors may be swayed if they feel their income is directly tied to the outcome of the study.

Objectivity is something I feel has value in some cases and doesn’t in others. Due to to the history that research has in Indigenous communities, objectivity is not always a good thing. Indigenous research encourages Indigenous people who are conducting research in their own community to not separate themselves from the research. This is because Indigenous people are very connected to their communities and that does not simply go away because they are conducting research. If I were conducting research in my community and interviewed my elders, I think they would be offended if I referred to them as informants and discussed my community like I am not a part of it. This brings me to the research design reflected in the reading. Quantitative research designs are very systematic. There is a set of steps researchers need to take in order for the research to be considered quantitative. One initial observation I made in this report is that the literature review holds a lot of weight in quantitative studies. The literature review actually forms an agenda. So in other studies where the researcher actually goes out into the field after completing a literature review they have an agenda. In Indigenous communities research agendas are not viewed in a positive light. In the past, research agendas have prompted researchers to pry into the lives of our elders and it feels very extractive. I also see value in quantitative objective-based research. But these are just a few of my thoughts about conducting research.

If I were to design a class based on the finds of this report, there would be a few considerations. The first being the course design. I would think about whether this course should be strictly online or a blend of face-to-face and online. According to the literature the blended courses had stronger learning outcomes. At Northwest Indian College we have several types of hybrid courses. Some of these courses are offered through videoconferencing for students who are not on campus and face-to-face for students who are on campus. This seems to work well for students. In the Native Studies department, we decided to design the courses a little differently. Instead of meeting every week at an allotted time our courses are designed so that students meeting once or twice a quarter. The majority of the course work is conducted online. And the instructor plans a time and date for the students to meet face-to-face during midterms and finals week. This allows for face-to-face instruction to take place, as well as at the online learning environment. The second consideration would be instructor participation. According to the literature, collaborative instruction and instructor-directed instruction were positive and independent online learning was not. This tells me the instructor needs to be facilitating the courses throughout the quarter. The courses designed through the Native Studies department do put an emphasis on instructor facilitation. Each of the instructors do weekly check-ins with the students. The first few weeks of the quarter the instructor will meet with the students in videoconferencing twice a week. Usually the first week is about walking students through the software. And gradually as the quarter goes on, the instructor will meet with students once a week for check-ins. The third consideration is about student reflection. According to the literature, “The practice with the strongest evidence of effectiveness is inclusion of mechanisms to prompt students to reflect on their level of understanding as they are learning online.” (USDOE, 2010) Educators go back and forth on the effectiveness and relevance of student reflection. My view is that there is a time and place for student reflection. If student reflection is effective in online learning than it should be included in the class. For me as a student, I see value in reflecting on my learning as I go along. It helps me put into perspective a clear picture of where I am in my learning. That allows me to grow. Some educators see student reflections as a filler in the curriculum, perhaps this is because they don’t see the value in it. I believe it is important.  


2 thoughts on “My Cup of Tea

  1. Another great job relating the content of reading to your personal situation. That makes your insights so much more tangible to me. I was struct by your last paragraph and especially the thoughts on instructor participation. When you step back and look at they dynamics of teaching and learning, it seems so obvious that participation from the instructor would be a critical component to learning. Of course students are going to bring intrinsic motivation to a course, especially in higher education. But that internal drive is only so strong, and begins to break down when confronted with challenges outside the scope of the work. Learning the technology necessary to complete topical tasks is often the most frustrating.

    While reading the study this week, I kept thinking that the same principles that apply to sound brick and mortar learning also apply to online learning. There are certainly modifications needed because of the nature of the medium. But interactive learning, exploratory learning, instructor participation, active learning through manipulation and expository instruction are best practices in all learning environments – synchronous or asynchronous.

    Lastly, I agree with your thoughts on reflection. I think its nearly impossible to move bits of information from short -term memory to long-term memory without some sort of reflection. In past societies, I think this was built into the fabric of community by way of storytelling and close community ties. With the volume of information coming at us today and the pace we must keep, I believe it’s critical that we intentionally establish time to reflect in silence. This is, after all, one of the characteristics that sets us apart from other animals.

  2. Hi Lexie,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Well done.

    This piece wasn’t exactly my cup of tea either – but I’m glad you see some value in it. I’m glad you see the occasional value in objective research – we wouldn’t be here, talking over the internet without it, that’s for sure. At the same time, some subjects are ill served by trying to force subjective and experiential type understandings into objective frameworks.

    I’ll be curious as to how your experiences with online learning develop over time. This class, though I wish it would be your best ever learning experience, will have its shortcomings. I understand the DOE’s efforts to quantify success and satisfaction, but learning experiences are amongst the most complex of the human catalog. At the same time, if we can get total success numbers, completion or performance indexes or standardized tests, or whatever, close to what we’ve been doing for centuries via traditional methods… that’s something. Maybe even that is far, far below what we should be expecting in the distant future. Or the not so distant future. What is possible? How do we get there? What are the secrets? Are they unknown? Or, are they known and just costly and hard to achieve? Are there simply economic tradeoffs involved when it comes to quality education? Are there other factors?

    This statement of Craig’s resonates with me: “While reading the study this week, I kept thinking that the same principles that apply to sound brick and mortar learning also apply to online learning.”


Leave a Reply