I perhaps need to learn to manage my expectations, that’s one thing I’ve learntÂ about being online recently. Especially when it relates toÂ online learning communities.
I’ve taken advantage of many online opportunities and can now see the good, the bad and the ugly awards. I take online learning as their relative ease appeals to me: lack of unnecessary travel being one and being able to sit in my pyjamas, the other.
Following my most recent experiences, I’ve now begun to doubt the whole process of these offerings. The apathy and lack of commitment of some groups I’ve been part of has put a downer on the whole thing.
There’s the general flourish of anticipation and excitement at the start of the course: brilliant introductions and backgrounds are shared, leading me to believe I’m in the presence of many like-minded individuals.
Gradually, or maybe not even gradual, this veneer wears off. Those interesting opportunities of connecting with others on topics of mutual interest dissipates. This then leads to despondency on my part.
Can no-one show up? I mean really show up? Chat spaces go empty and unused – it’s like lovers having had a tiff and nobody is talking.
Perhaps it’s me? Many times I will initiate conversations, questions, or simply share my thoughts around a recent teaching topic and then … nothing.
Where have all those interesting people gone from the beginning?
The not needing to be present physically in a room with others simply reinforces the falseness that is experienced through social media. It lacks integrity.
Very rarely do true connections get made anymore, unlike in-person situations where there’s rooms alive with … wait for it … conversation!
This is just one aspect I’m currently struggling with. The other is the delivery of course materials. I’ve always known myself to be a visual learner, and never has that been reinforced more than of late. I’m currently engaged in an online meditation group and it’s dry. Very little thought has been given to how the material is presented and it’s for me, my worst nightmare. It’s all audio.
Audio has the ability to represent a bedtime story. It doesn’t matter if I perch myself on the edge of the most uncomfortable seat, I nod off. There’s nothing else engaging me.
Despite the best intentions of those offering the course, no thought has been given to this aspect.
Of course nothing can replace in-person teaching that’s vibrantly alive and pulsing. There’s feedback between the teacher and those present. This ensures the speaker can gauge how what they are saying is being received and, if necessary, make adjustments. This keeps it fresh.
Sadly this is lost in the sterile container of the lesson box on screen.
Also, there’s no being held to account. Not that I’m suggesting it being like school, but the sessions quickly descend into bunking off.
There’s a schedule for online gatherings, live, with the facilitator(s) to check in with how the course is going (or not).
Leading up to the scheduled slot, apologies start rippling through the message boxes. TheÂ boxes start to see more action than they haveÂ done for a week or more.
I get it. I know life does get jammed up sometimes, though I often wonder if there would be the same non-attendance levels if attending in person? (Just wondering).
All of this means that the online dynamic gets blasted and what may have promised to be a lively exchange is lost.
cartoon from Edudemic.com
I really enjoy online webinars where we not only see the facilitator – ‘hello there, you’re looking grand today!’ – but also have the added bonus of them sharing visuals and slides. (Big tick for the GoToMeeting kind of format here).
Zoom isn’t so brilliant (in my opinion). There’s a lack of online etiquetteÂ (again, this is a facilitator role to address) and many forget to mute their microphones. Imagine: twenty minutes of hearing someone’s clock ticking until the tutor finally notices they have messages complaining about the said ticking clock masking the audio. (True story). Not only that, we have a birds-eye view into the lives of complete strangers. “We can see you and everything else”.
VoiceThread is brilliant. The facilitator uploads their presentation and those signed up can leave comments in audio or text format to each slide. It’s great. It opens up a whole new way of interacting without the frustration of dodgy webcams and broadband connections getting in the way.
None of this relates to the go-at-your-own-pace offerings. You pay your money and you have all the lessons there – bang! Even better if the material is evergreen (big tick). No complaints here. It’s the real deal – WYSIWYG.
I’m sure that many who take online teachings, do so with the best of intentions, don’t get me wrong. However, I would ask that we do so with honesty and clarity about the level of commitment that we’re willing to give, especially when writing our flowery introductions to the rest of the group at the start.
And finally, I need to mention the facilitators themselves. On the whole, I salute those who show up, physically, in front of a camera and walk their talk. It’s scary. It doesn’t matter how many times you do it, I’m sure it’s daunting for you. Even when I make iddy-biddy videos for my meditation group it’s a big deal. Keep up the good work, I think you’re all brilliant.
Unfortunately I’ve had the experience of a course that run for a whole month – interactions required each and every day – only for the facilitator to go AWOL for 2-3 days at a time (several times).
If in your sales blurb you say you are going to show up, online, then you do it. Just do it. No excuses.
In the future, I will think long and hard about whether I sign up for any more online learning opportunities. Sometimes what I’ve learnt online isn’t necessarily what I signed up for.