There are many concerns about online learning. Some concerns are valid and require the instructor to address them. Others are created under false pretenses. As Northwest Indian College transitions into offering more online and online/hybrid courses we see more and more of these concerns in the Native Studies department. Though we are trying ensure online learning environments are a place where students feel safe, there are some instances where we feel that we can accommodate every student issue in these courses. So weighing the concerns to determine the value is something we have to do as educators.
One of the main concerns that I see is insecurity. This insecurity emerges in many ways. There are some students who don’t feel they know enough about the topic to create an opinion and post about it. These students are predominately non-Native students and at Northwest Indian College these students are the minority. In Native Studies our topics and discussions in online classes are about Native issues. Non-Native students sometimes feel insecure about posting in a public place when they feel they don’t have enough context about these issues to form an opinion. Some don’t feel its their place to even form an opinion on these issues. Online learning communities are a different space than face-to-face. Sometimes people feel more inclined to voice their opinions in online spaces. Non-Native students sometimes feel like they could get attacked if they voice their opinion.
Another form of insecurity come from Native students. I’ve observed some students feel they don’t know enough about the topic to comment publicly. Students react to this insecurity in different ways. Some students just avoid the situation all together, causing them to not do the assignments. Some students will struggle through, get feedback, and improve. I think both of these examples are valid. These insecurities impact student engagement and success in the course. The instructor should address these issues.
Other concerns that I’ve seen, given we haven’t had much experience with online courses in the Native Studies program, have to do with technical competence. Technical competence isn’t really an issue with dangers in public spaces, but it is really the only one I could think of. This concern I feel could have easy solutions if they are approached properly. Faculty have reported that some of their students haven’t checked into the course at all. Canvas is new to our campus and there are many instances where students don’t know the new software. This results in students not knowing how to access the site. At Northwest Indian College we have one person implementing online programming. These factors should be considered when placing a value on this concern. But overall if a student communicates with the instructor and the the instructor responds to correct the issue, it wouldn’t be a hinderance on student learning.