I have learned about technology through the Advance Online Learning Strategy class, PF282-G4CC, but I have also learned about what defines a learning community and how to successfully participate in one.
Through the various assignments, I have mastered the use of technology as never before. I have learned to communicate through e-mail to my instructor and classmates. I have learned to use the online library to access various research articles. I have learned how to use the Internet and to use various search engines as vehicles for research, and how to evaluate the quality of the material I had gathered. In addition, I learned to create my own Web page and post it on the Internet. The class Bulletin Board was also a new learning experience for me, as was participating in the Chat Room. Both of these modes of communication enabled me to see how a person can really get to know someone without ever meeting face to face. Something I once doubted. What was particularly interesting for me was the Electronic Editing assignment. It was there that I learned how one must understand the original purpose of a document before one can edit it. Otherwise, the meaning can become somewhat altered from the original intent. These different forms of technical communication allowed me to participate by interacting with my class and instructor—in what I now define as a learning community.
Prior to this class, I had never thought of education as a learning community. I had heard of the term before, but not in the same context as I have come to understand it in these last few weeks. I now believe that learning should be a voluntary act, and that teaching should be a response to that act—not a burden, not a one-person show. Probably the most important aspect of this distance online class has been learning about what defines a learning community and how it differs from a traditional classroom. Not only does this environment place the impetus to learn on the student, it also offers students the flexibility they need to participate in their own education at their own pace. Many times throughout this past semester I had work-related problems and could not participate every day at a certain time. I participated, but when it was convenient for me to do so. In other words, to borrow a new term, I learned that learning can be both asynchronous and synchronous. Some of the time my learning took place on my own and then at other times with the class. In fact, I noticed that all of the elements that are crucial in accomplishing work-related goals are also present in this learning environment. For example, collaboration was necessary at certain times during this distance learning class, just as it is in the workplace. I couldn’t always "do it alone," just as I cannot always do it alone on my job.
As I reflect upon on my strengths and weaknesses as related to this course, I think that the old saying about how my "greatest weakness became my greatest strength" applies here. One of the problems I first encountered in this class was not being able to get an immediate answer when I was having difficulty with something. In a traditional classroom the teacher is always physically present, so if there is an immediate need he or she is usually immediately accessible in one way or another (in class or during office hours). This problem, however, turned around as I gradually learned to dig deeper and investigate further for my own answers. I also learned to rely on my learning community (classmates), too. In the beginning of the semester there was an adjustment period, but as the semester progressed and as I began to work with the system, I learned to be less dependent on the instructor and more dependent on me. I think this was a good learning experience. Sometimes teachers answer far too many questions easily when they need to let the student search for their own answer. As a distance-learning student, I found that it was important to work independently to find solutions to problems. This is where my critical thinking skills came in handy. I don’t mean to disregard the need for the learning community, but being an independent learner enables a student to be a better member of that learning community. So, to summarize, my greatest weakness—the inability to access information instantly—became my greatest strength—my ability to become an independent learner and achiever.
In closing, I would like to add that I have really enjoyed the experience of this class. It has been good for me to learn first-hand what this distance learning is all about. Thank you for your help and patience.