What lessons might we take from successful (and unsuccessful) OCL Institutional Innovations and from the concept of the Community of Practice (CoP)?

Online Collaborative Learning (OCL) is the culmination of the transformation that has taken place within the realm of online delivery.  The idea that the teacher is the center of the instruction has come under question as the best delivery method for the Net Gen learners of the 21st century.  The teacher-centered classroom has been the natural model as educators have delved into the world of online delivery and design.  Institutions are arriving at the understanding that uniform curriculum as well as uniform online delivery is a necessity for the 21st century learners.

Initially, online classes simply resembled the brick and mortar counterpart, but through it rapid evolution, is recognizing the art and craft of well designed online courses.  The primary problem though still remains; utilizing current educational staff to create, build and deliver these online opportunities.  Building high quality online classes, takes a tremendous amount of time, and most school districts in the State of Alaska  are operating under the premise of short-funding.   Seaman (2009) writes, “the major barrier was the effort required to teach online: about 64% of the respondents wrote that it takes “somewhat more” or “a lot more” effort to teach online over face-to-face instruction, and over 85% reported that it takes “somewhat more” or “a lot more” effort to develop an online course than a face-to-face course.”

At some point, education inevitably comes back to funding, and what school boards understand is face-to-face, student / teacher contact time.  I hear these phrases commonly used when budgets are tight and funding is the issue.  Quality education requires quality preparation, and online teaching requires content knowledge, savvy technology understanding, intensive and focused inservicing, and time to build. “The need for practicing the skills required to facilitate or to teach an online class, to manipulate the online environment, and to master the required skills of communication and interaction cannot be underestimated” (Muirhead & Betz, 2002).

Harasim, L. (2012). Learning Theory and Online Technologies. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved from https://bookshelf.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781136937750/

Muirhead, B. & Betz, M. (2002). Faculty training at an online university. USDLA Journal, 16(1). Retrieved November 26, 2009 from:www.usdla.org/html/journal/JAN02_Issue/article04.html.

Seaman, J. (2009). Online learning as a strategic asset, volume II: The paradox of faculty voices—Views and experiences with online learning. Washington, DC: Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. Retrieved November 26, 2009 from: www.sloan-c.org/news/APLU_online_strategic_asset_vol. 2.pdf.


2 thoughts on “What lessons might we take from successful (and unsuccessful) OCL Institutional Innovations and from the concept of the Community of Practice (CoP)?

  1. Dan,

    I think uniform curriculum as well as uniform online delivery is a necessity not only for 21st century learners, but also for a successful educational program. Within our elementary school we had teachers using whatever curriculum they wanted, many times (myself included) not even using textbooks as a base. However, using a uniform curriculum allows learners to learn and grow using the same format and have a good progression of materials covered from grade level to grade level.

    The research your reported regarding the time and effort it takes between teaching an online course versus a face to face course is interesting. I wonder if this is because they didn’t have as much training to prepare for an online class versus a face to face class? Could it be that it’s out of their comfort zone? I don’t know if buy these statistics. I think there could be positives and negatives for teaching both. Some may think it’s easier to do it one way, especially someone tech savvy, and some may think face to face is a lot easier – for different reasons.

    I completely agree with your point that “Quality education requires quality preparation.” This is so true at any grade level pre-k to college and distance or face to face. Some teachers spend an extra 10-20 hours a week preparing for class, but unless it’s quality preparation, kids won’t really benefit from it.



  2. Dan,
    Great point about the Net Gen being more student center than the legacy teacher-centered style. I also agree that the lesson plans can be (from what I have seen) can take some time to complete. I am sure the limited funding and time a teacher has also can impact the quality of the lessons. I would love to see education fully funded again in the near future.



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