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REIMAGINE ONLINE LEARNING

Reimagine Online Learning


Ashley Conrad
Jessica Dancy
Nikki Harrison
Tim Konynenbelt
Michigan State University

REIMAGINE ONLINE LEARNING

Online learning has become the cutting edge tool in educational reform but it is
not always effectively implemented into the classroom, nor is it used to its full potential.
One problem that is greatly impacting education today, as identified by the New Media
Consortium (2013) is reimagining online learning. Reimagine online learning is
considered a wicked problem. Wicked problems of practice are problems that have
incomplete, changing, and contradictory requirements and solutions to wicked problems
are often difficult to realize because of complex interdependencies among a large number
of contextually bound variables (Koehler & Mishra, 2008, p.10). There is no single way
to reimagine online learning in a manner that will be successful in every classroom,
school, or district and because of this solutions to wicked problems will always be
custom designed by educators (Koehler & Mishra, 2008, p. 11). Through a multifaceted
solution of implementing teacher preparation and integrating problembased/collaborative learning, we believe online learning can be enhanced to meet the
ever-changing needs of 21st century learners.
One of the greatest challenges with reimagining online learning is that of teacher
training. Currently instructors are often asked to teach online or hybrid courses because
their administrators believe that they are excellent classroom teachers, but the skills
needed for classroom teaching are very different from those used for online or blended
learning (Journell, 2012, p.48). School districts
Must provide teachers with sufficient learning opportunities to explore the
various nuances of online instruction, such as creating classroom community,
learning to implement synchronous and asynchronous communication, and
assessing student performance. To move online courses beyond content
dissemination, teachers must know how to promote reflective, constructivist

REIMAGINE ONLINE LEARNING

learning online-a process that may look different than what is typically done in a
face-to-face classroom (Journell, 2012, p.48).
In addition to district provided professional development for online learning, universitylevel teacher education programs will also need to provide courses for their students on
the specific techniques of teaching online or in a blended environment (Journell, 2012, p.
48).
The training provided to both current and pre-service teachers should follow the
TPACK model of instruction. It should train teachers in technological knowledge like the
operating of learning management systems, content knowledge which must be effectively
presented in this new medium, and pedagogical knowledge like how to differentiate and
personalize learning to the needs and learning styles of various students. Training must
not look only at each of these models separately, but must look at the overlap of the three
types of knowledge (Koehler, 2012). Teachers must be shown the value of using the
online interface not merely to digitize their current materials, but instead to allow it to
open up new doors to learning that were previously inaccessible (Tucker, 2013). Teachers
must learn to implement strategies to effectively build relationships with student in online
settings like providing students with individualized video feedback and sending more
frequent and descriptive group email to class members (Cerniglia, 2011, pp. 54-55).
Training is also needed in the different modalities available through classroom
management systems and how to best serve different learners with these different
modalities.
It is necessary to provide teachers with presenters who are teachers experienced in
blended and online learning settings who can present them not only with best practices,
but also with practical wisdom from their own personal experiences. This training should

REIMAGINE ONLINE LEARNING

also incorporate online components so that teachers have the opportunity to experience
being online learners themselves to get a better feel for the challenges of online learning
from a learners perspective. A hybrid training system for teachers may also give teachers
a better feel for the important challenge of balancing online and face-to-face content in
ways that use both systems to their best advantage (Tucker, 2013). To further support
teachers, districts and universities should provide some sort of online space where
teachers can post their challenges and successes. In his book, The Anti-Education Era,
James Gee (2013) speaks very highly of the power of affinity groups to allow for the
development of skills and giving teachers the option to be a part of such a group could
magnify the results of the training. Empowering teachers to effectively teach in ways that
are effective and fully take advantage of the power of face-to-face as well as online time
should be the first step in reimagining online learning.
In addition to teacher training, learning in the 21st century must include the
collaboration of many learners. By power of social media and other online tools for
networking, online learning can, and should, connect learners with others outside of their
physical environment. Gee explains that humans banded together are capable of solving
problems much better than any one person could alone. Group collaboration not only
helps advance the individual learners knowledge and understanding, but enhances the
learning experience for those within.
All students need to feel that they matter and that their opinion counts. 21st
century online learning offers the opportunity to join a collaborative group and helps the
learner feel appreciated. Building this type of equality within an online collaborative
learning/affinity space strengthens the possibility of creating what Gee calls a Mind or,

REIMAGINE ONLINE LEARNING

humans as reciprocal tools for each other + non-human tools (Gee, 2013, p. 165). An
individual person can only be considered a mind, but when plugged into other minds
and adding non-human tools, a complex problem-solving entity is created with the
potential for finding best solutions for the most complex issues we find in our world
today. Online learning allows teachers to model and foster this type of successful
collaborative learning to empower students to solve complex problems.
Reimagining online learning will continue to be an ever-changing and evolving
wicked problem of practice as technology continues to advance. Educators must
continue to grow their knowledge of how to effectively integrate this technology as best
practice to provide their students with meaningful, authentic learning. Blended learning
provides a multi-faceted solution to this problem through strong teacher preparation
programs and effectively balancing collaborative project based learning, while
simultaneously being able to provide more personalized instruction.

REIMAGINE ONLINE LEARNING

References:
Cerniglia, E. G. (2011). Modeling best practice through online learning: Building
relationships. YC Young Children, 66(3), 54-56, 58-59. Retrieved from
http://www.jstor.org/stable/42730944
Gee, J.P. (2013). The Anti-Education Era: Creating smarter students through digital
learning. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
Journell, W. (2012). Walk, dont run-to online learning. The Phi Delta Kappan, 93 (7), 4650. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/23210004
Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2008). Introducing TPCK. In AACTE Committee on
Innovation and Technology (Ed.), Handbook of Technological Pedagogical Content
Knowledge (TPCK) (pp. 329). New York: Routledge.
Koehler, M. J. (2012). TPACK explained. TPACK.org. Retrieved from
http://www.tpack.org/
Tucker, C. R. (2013). The basics of blended instruction. Technology-Rich Learning,
70(6), 57-60. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educationalleadership/mar13/vol70/num06/The-Basics-of-Blended-Instruction.aspx