Lesson Two: Comparing Traditional and Online Classrooms
Key differences between the traditional classroom
and the online classroom
Keeping a Clear View of the Importance
of Building Social Skills, Online and Offline.
Prerequisites for Online Learning
Outside the Classroom
Supplementing a Traditional Course with
Key Advantages of Online Instruction
1. Read "New Face of Learning"
2. Read Chapter Two in your printed book;
"In the Kitchen - Designs for Telecollaboration and
Telepresence" The 16 teleactivity categories are listed
Click on the "See Examples" links and scroll down to see
the examples and descriptions.
3. Review the Coolschool site:
http://coolschool.k12.or.us Review their handbooks at
http://coolschool.k12.or.us/cshbooks.php and the student
center (netiquette and student orientation) and the Staff Room
Search http://google.com for "free K12 online courses" and
review at least THREE courses.
Post your review to the listserv at designing-L@netpals.lsoft.com
Links to directories with hundreds of K-12 courses are listed
Search for a "free online course on designing online courses,"
review one, and post the link to the class listserv along with your review.
Report any problems to your instructor.
4. Go to http://google.com and enter the following search
phrase. (include the quotes and parentheses)
"elementary reading" AND (tutorial* OR lesson* OR
Then substitute "elementary reading" for something you're
interested in. Then try modifying this phrase for
just tutorials and experiment with different keywords.
For more on searching skills see
Google's link to Advanced Search and Searching Tips
In this lesson, we'll explore the unique benefits of both the traditional classroom and the "online classroom" and using both together, called "blended learning."
You'll begin to explore good teaching strategies for all three combinations.
In this lesson, you'll review three K-12 online courses, and one on creating online courses, to get an initial idea of online instruction formats and issues.
Key differences between the Traditional Classroom and the Online Classroom.
A really good teacher can make the traditional classroom an exciting place, and the same is true for the online classroom. The specific goals of any class, or course, must be clear in the mind of the teacher, as well as the best methods for the type of classroom, and type of content presented.
Traditional education and online education each have unique advantages. The emotively supportive face-to-face environment of the classroom allows immediate feedback, and an immediate social environment, which has been viewed as essential to a quality educational experience. Facial expressions and body language are vital clues to the level of student understanding and engagement, and fundamental to recognizing those "teachable moments!".
The traditional classroom usually requires everyone travel to a single location, and there is a fixed amount of time for interaction. Larger class sizes limit the opportunity for interaction and the true individual attention students receive. Private interaction between teacher and student is often severely limited in a busy classroom. Due to diversity of background, attitude, and other factors, the ideal of Socratic small group interaction at a high level is often beyond practical attainment in many traditional classrooms.
The online classroom can also be emotively supportive, but in a medium that is so new as to be poorly understood - interactive reading and writing. Not all students are equally prepared to function well in the online classroom. An online classroom allows anyone, anywhere, anytime the opportunity to participate, without pressure from limited time or public speaking in front of a group.
While there are too many subtle advantages and disadvantages to list here, the reality is that both the traditional classroom and the online classroom have very real advantages and disadvantages, which require a teacher to think clearly about specific student and curriculum needs and the most effective means for presenting different types of content.
The issue becomes: when does use of the online classroom most benefit the student, and when does the traditional classroom most benefit the student? We now have alternatives to the traditional classroom which, when used wisely, benefit students and teachers, alike. As we gain more experience, and confidence, with use of the online classroom, our expectations will become clearer. Most teachers would agree our goal is to teach the love of learning, and to do the very best we can for our students.
Whether using online activities within a traditional classroom, or as out-of-class "homework" activities, combining online activities to create whole online courses presents additional possibilities and issues.
The availability of online courses at anytime, from any location, supports the current boom in home-based learning. Home-based Internet access supports ongoing opportunities for lifelong learning, group dialogue, participation in communities of interest, and access to local community and global expertise. At the same time, online courses can be an inferior alternative to the traditional classroom for some students.
Keeping a Clear View of the Importance of Building Social Skills.
If we taught an online course, would we lose the face-to-face emotive support of the classroom, and those near intangible human benefits, that literally define good teachers as role models, listeners, and personal mentors? Not necessarily. This direct student contact is the source of satisfaction that motivated most of us to become teachers in the first place! Is this something that can be replaced by collaborative Internet tools and written interaction?
While we can't look into students' eyes or read their facial expressions and body language, we can read between the lines of their written interaction to a greater degree than most would anticipate. While building students' online reading and writing skills, most teachers are pleasantly surprised by the opportunity for intimacy presented by access to private online communications with students. Many teachers find they get to know students at a much deeper level than the limitations of the traditional classroom previously allowed. Many unique communication capabilities that have never existed in the traditional classroom are now available to teachers and students.
For some students, in some content areas, online education might be a very poor substitute for a good teacher and classroom interaction. For other students, in some content areas, online education might be far more motivating, efficient and more in the students' best interests, than the traditional classroom. As teachers, we need to learn how to discern what opportunities are best for individual students. Face-to-face social skills, character development, and learning to be a good citizen are more important today than ever before. Online social skills are increasing in importance as well, for many of the same good reasons. To properly prepare our students, we need to strive to improve social skills in both contexts.
Student Prerequisites for Online Learning Outside the Classroom
- Students must have convenient access to the Internet at home or through school, library, and community computer labs.
- Students must have basic knowledge of computers, Internet, and typing.
- Students must have their own email accounts or access to a group conferencing program.
- Students must demonstrate the maturity to responsibly use the Internet, and their own email accounts, or lose these privileges.
- Students must be self-motivated to get online and conduct their "homework" Internet activities.
- Students must have the self-confidence and maturity to be engaged in their own learning to the degree they will interact openly and honestly like joining Online Degree Programs
Blended Learning: Supplementing a Traditional Class with Online Interaction
Note: Searching for the latest buzz phrase "blended learning" will yield many current resources.
Traditional classroom instruction evolved originally during the industrial age in the context of training future workers to follow instruction for rather rigid work roles. In the information age, the nature of work and the skills needed to be successful, are markedly different. Students must be able to teach themselves whatever they may need to know, at a moment's notice, and also to find highly specific information, quickly in an inquiry-based, self-directed learning context. Students must learn to collaborate effectively around short-term collaborative problem-solving projects, both face-to-face and online. Multiple emerging new Internet communication mediums require building reading, writing, and thinking skills, in preparation for self-publishing, and self-expression, in a multimedia format.
Beyond supplementing traditional instruction with use of Internet access to additional resources, and project-based learning units, if your students have access to the Internet outside the classroom, the door for extending your classroom beyond its walls and fixed time schedules is opened.
With the exception of desktop video conferencing, the online classroom has no immediate verbal exchange, and no visual cues for body language or facial expressions, but it does offer immediate connections to global resources and collaborative tools. Online, using new forms of interactive reading and writing, we listen with our eyes, and speak through our fingers, at anytime convenient, leaving a written record of all interaction available for reflection at any time. This develops reading and writing skills in a new, motivating, social, collaborative context!
Online instruction, and opportunities for online interaction, can be available to anyone, anytime, anywhere, given basic literacy, minimal computer literacy, typing skills, and access to a computer with Internet connections. Affordable ongoing education is now becoming feasible for billions who have never before had the opportunity.
Online interaction with community members, students and teachers in other classrooms, and experts Internet-wide, becomes conveniently accessible both inside, and outside the traditional classroom. Such "extension of the classroom" discussions and activities can begin to replace the national average of six hours per day of passive TV viewing with a far more engaging and educational use of that time.
Self-motivated students are likely to excel outside the classroom environment if given the access and skills for self-directed learning via Internet, particularly at home. The reality is students spend 19% of their time in school, of which typically only a tiny fraction is spent on the Internet. The availability and use of Internet in the home will go far to helping the student develop self-directed Internet learning skills and become more self-motivated.
It is not inconceivable that SAT verbal and written scores could show a serious improvement in as little as one year using online communications. Most students, and at-risk students in particular, find online communications highly motivating. Not only will they be eager to read and write, but because they are writing for a peer audience they will often be more concerned about spelling and grammar than if they were writing only for the teacher. Your challenge will be to create educational applications for online interaction and to attempt to minimize frivolous, patronizing, and/or inappropriate online communications.
Online learning is becoming more and more modularized, similar to the short tutorials listed in the "help menu" for virtually all software programs. We can expect to see new, more efficient, models for applying these modularized online learning units for individualizing student instruction. Further, we need to be scouting for these best models as they emerge.
Less motivated students often require the physical classroom environment for motivation and monitoring of their progress, as well as the emotive encouragement for which individualized face-to-face instruction is best known. Consider the benefits of allowing motivated students the opportunity learning online outside the classroom giving you more time to devote to your students who require more personalized help. Consider having your motivated "online" students mentor the initial online learning of your unmotivated students.
One possible use for online instruction might be the removal of students with serious behavior problems from the classroom. This does not have to include removing them from their obligations to learn from your online lessons. On the other hand, as stated in the last paragraph, perhaps it is indeed these students who most need direct face-to-face motivation, while the regular students would benefit most from the flexibility inherent in online learning.
Depending on the level of 'self-directed learning' vast numbers of students could benefit from your online lessons, allowing a teacher to impact more students than the traditional classroom model would ever allow. We're limited only by our imaginations!
There are three recent high level studies on the importance of the web for education, listed among top resources for professional development of educators and web-based curriculum resources:
"World Class K-12 Web-based Education"
Key Advantages of Online Instruction
There are real instructional advantages to using the online medium:
1. Interactive reading and writing can produce twice the memory retention in one quarter the time invested. Educational research suggests 15-25% memory retention from lecture and video presentations vs. 40% memory retention from reading written material. When reading, the student is participating, rather than passively listening and/or viewing. The research suggests written words are symbols concrete enough to readily form permanent memory, where images, and a spoken lecture, can be so fleeting as to leave little permanent impression or memory.
Another advantage is that students can read an online lesson at their own speed, often 400-1000 words per minute, rather than to listen to a spoken presentation of 120 words per minute. It can be boring to be presented information at rates slower than one desires to assimilate information. Thus, online instruction may offer twice the retention in one quarter the time compared to a traditional classroom presentation.
Also, the amount of time invested in lesson preparation can often reduce the time required for learning by students. Online education has the potential of providing students with learning experiences representing far more preparation time than the traditional teacher can routinely provide.
2. The depth of student engagement with curricular content is arguably greater when a student must articulate his/her thoughts online, in writing, both to the teacher and, particularly, to other students.
Written interaction can require more depth of thought than verbal interaction. Writing for a peer audience is vastly more motivating than writing for the teacher, knowing your words can possibly end up in the waste basket without another person ever seeing them. Interactive reading and writing provides a level of mind-to-mind interaction that is fundamentally different from, and in many ways better than, verbal face-to-face interaction. Ideally, online and face-to-face interaction can be balanced to bring students the best of both mediums.
As a teacher, we need to learn what content, in what situations, for which specific students, provides for the best overall learning experience. Students think most when they have to express themselves; when they must rearticulate what they've learned. The written online medium has the potential to require that students concentrate, reflect, and articulate their thoughts and responses to both teacher and fellow students. This higher level of forced reflection requires rational deliberation and builds thinking and expressive skills.
When writing online for a peer audience, students are held accountable to articulate what they've perceived, by virtue of their online writing leaving a written record. Students must regularly USE the information they have read, when interacting online. The online medium is less socially distracted in that it presents an environment for more equitable sharing of ideas from both teacher and students than the time-limited, socially oriented, classroom.
3. Unique opportunities for individual relationships with students become viable.
This is not to say face-to-face interaction in the classroom is not vitally important; it is; but it is inherently limited based on factors of time available, class size, and social inhibitions in front of peers. Online discussions between the teacher and individual students may be the ONLY private communications the student will have with the teacher. The time required for such one-on-one interaction may be restrictive for the teacher, but the depth of intimacy from such "text-based" relationships will often be of higher value than the classroom relationships because of this valued private sharing opportunity.
4. The advantage of transcending the limitations of the 50 minute hour comes from adding an online instructional component to your traditional classroom instruction with online discussions and the opportunity to ask, or answer, questions on a 24 hour/day, seven days/week basis. As is especially true with larger class sizes, the level of one-on-one interaction is often minimal. Online interaction, both teacher-to-student and student-to-student, enhances your students' engagement with the curriculum and better prepares them for the next classroom experience. At the same time, their reading, writing and collaborative Internet skills are being developed in a social interaction context!
Untapped Future Potential: Consider an online discussion in a computer lab setting where students would begin by reading the teachers introductory written comments, and would then write their own ideas, followed by reading the comments from their classmates, and then posting their reactions to these comments? The amount of interaction after a 50 minute hour would be many times that of a traditional verbal discussion. This one example is intended suggest that our current understanding of the educational benefits of online interaction is only the tip of a very big iceberg!
Since the WWW is so new, we're all kindergartners in the information age and must learn through direct, hands-on exploration, one step at-a-time! Our expectations of what online instruction, and interaction, can bring to the traditional classroom will increase as we gain more hands-on experience. Be patient with yourself!
Our sense of "play" and spirited exploration will be important to
minimize our anxiety about the newness of these capabilities.
Painting a Moving Train
of 2007, the proliferation of new free web tools for social
collaboration and creating
web content has literally exploded. Once there were only dozens, now there are hundreds,
soon there will be thousands. Read the article at
The “MUST READ” New Face of Learning http://www.edutopia.org/new-face-learning
from www.Edutopia.org, a free e-zine is exceptional reading making the case for how blogging,
podcasting, video-authoring and more can impact K12 education.
It is highly recommended you subscribe to Edutopia's free print magazine and one or more of their free e-newsletters. Worth the time is downloading their electronic version of the magazine to experience this new way of publishing. It provides the full magazine in a flipbook format which allows you to click on links to videos and other resources. You can experiment with similar flipbooks
at www.flipalbum.com (30 day free downloads) A tutorial is at http://lone-eagles.com/flipalbumtutorial.htm
Also recommended are:
PBS’s Learningnow blog for educators, hosted by Andy Carvin
New Google for Educators website
Search for a free online course on designing online courses, review
one, and post the link
to the class listserv along with your review.
Tools Samplers: http://lone-eagles.com/teacherstools.htm http://lone-eagles.com/toolbox.htm
Search for "free web curriculum tools" "free tools for teachers" and experiment just to see
how many toolkits and directories of tools are already out there.
Consider your future strategies for keeping current using
well-developed searching skills
and peer collaboration tools and techniques. Consider your potential goal of identifying the
best tools for your own purposes. Where will you find the time?
Lesson Feedback: Optional, but much appreciated.
You're invited to privately email your instructor:
1. What areas, if any, did you have trouble with during this lesson?
2. What questions remain now that you've finished this lesson?
3. Approximately how much time did you devote to this lesson?
4. What improvements would you like to suggest?