Building community through online learning proves a persistent challenge
- Rachel Cusick writes for Slate about the disconnection and discomfort in trying to be an active student in an distance learning course.
- The article points out the culture of participation, typically done through queueing, can dissuade many learners from engaging with the instructor or other students, and marginalizes opportunities for questions to be answered.
- Distance education also eliminates the non-verbal cues which help to drive discussion, assessment of academic delivery in real-time.
Several colleges and universities are looking to reverse this trend of disengagement with distance learning by incorporating more cameras, production value into the the model. Harvard and Cal-Berkeley are two of the most prominent examples of how these changes can increase student value and participation in non-traditional classrooms.
But can this method, even with new options like enhanced videoconferencing or gamification, engage all kinds of students? Older learners or students from low-income backgrounds who don't have familiarity with the technology or the setting may struggle to adapt. Colleges may want to consider certain training or requirements for certain courses in freshman year to help with this learning acclimation process.