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Online Class Reaction

I though that this was a particularly appropriate unit to conduct as an online class, given that the readings and subject matter were centered on issues of technology, delivery, and remediation. Taking the issues discussed in the readings and then applying them to the occasion of the class was interesting to me, in that we were, in a sense, both critiquing/examining these methods and creating with them in the moment. If there had been a requirement for a multi-modal response of some kind, I think the meta-experience might have been more complete for me, though of course, in retrospect, had I thought of it, I’m sure a response like that would have been fine – no one would have stopped me from doing so.

Though this was interesting for one class period, I would really not enjoy doing this all the time. I have almost no recollection, a few days later, of who said what or even what I thought at the time. “What I learned” is more hazy and abstracted than typical (though maybe that’s the result of the cold I have…?) and I had no “ah ha!” moments at all working in this venue. My mind was not engaged the way it is in face-to-face discussions, and if this was the way that I was “learning” in an ongoing way, I would learn very much less than I typically do in a physical classroom.

I’m questioning why that was (or is). I wonder if having a “chat session” would have had more of the back and forth “feel” of conversation to me…? For some reason that seems to be the case. Responses felt canned or static in a way that discussion does not. But then I think about, say, a Facebook discussion where comments go back and forth, sometimes for hundreds of exchanges. I find that very engaging – that is where I participate in the most productive online, text-based discussions I’ve ever had. Responses tend to be (but are not always) shorter, but there is a lot of back and forth, back and forth, interaction between multiple parties. I wonder how this might have differed if we had three strands of “chats” open and were commenting back and forth more in “real time?” That is something to consider myself for the future, as I sometimes conduct “online classes” in my face-to-face courses if I am out of town and hope to again teach online someday.

This leads me to consider the implications for teaching on-line, and I see now why students seemed to really benefit from the face-to-face discussions on Google Plus. There is something that (at least for me) is missing when I don’t see the person to whom I’m talking – it just felt like disembodied text rather than the response of a person. For students who take classes that are entirely online, I can see where face-to-face interaction would be important. In the future, if I teach online again (which I hope I will – I really enjoyed it) I will remember this experience and be sure to incorporate more activities that support embodied connection (for lack of a better term) between students, as the lack of this could really affect the overall experience, I think.

As far as “take-away” from the online class, the readings and the responses are totally blurred in my head, perhaps because they were both text-based….?  I found Selber’s literacy types interesting and useful, as well as the discussion of delivery and how that changes with the use of technology. This latter consideration has already had an effect on the way that I look at on-line interactions and presentation – I am acutely aware of the delivery aspects of the artifacts I find and see. Focusing more on this as delivery is really useful to me – that will definitely stay with me as a tool of analysis.

Perhaps delivery really does matter to me, and thus the online, linear response method did not meet some of the needs I have for interaction. The disembodied sense of text-based, static response was not as dynamic or embodied as an actual face-to-face discussion – or even as a video interface might have been. Even having pictures of the people speaking would have helped, as I couldn’t “picture” or remember who was speaking, so it was “just text” that I was reading, even though I know the actual people in “real life.” It really does make me wonder, and gives me something to think about for future online interactions, whether in a learning environment or elsewhere. I think that examining the on-line class experience through the lens of delivery is helpful to me in making sense of what happened and why I might not have gotten as much, intellectually or socially, as I typically do from a face-to-face class session.

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