I completed a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education combined degree program at the University of Alberta in 2011. Throughout my degrees I worked at a laboratory technician in a plant genetics lab, as well as tutoring students in grades 6 through 12 in sciences and math. Currently I am an Online Course Support Assistant at the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning (CIEL) at Vancouver Island University (VIU). My primary roles are assisting in the rebuilding of courses from Moodle in VIULearn, also called Desire2Learn, and supporting students and faculty who are using VIULearn.
I have never taught in my own classroom, and the majority of how I feel about education was shaped by the students I worked with as a tutor, and the classrooms I volunteered in. I have worked with students with various types of disabilities, students struggling with correspondence courses, and a few students who were classified as gifted. I have been able to work closely with teachers and parents in a support role.
Distance Learning is something that I do not have a lot of experience with. I have never taken part in a fully-online or blended course before, and distance learning was not part of my teacher education. My only experience with distance learning is through tutoring students taking correspondence courses. Most of them struggled with distance learning because they felt they did not have any supports, either from teachers or classmates, and many had time management issues.
I feel that there is a lot of power in distance learning, especially in asynchronous delivery. When students are supported with some kind of face-to-face component and are able to control the pacing of their course, I have seen a lot of success. Even when the curriculum is highly restrictive and specific (as in the case of Alberta’s Provincial Achievement Tests) being able to move through material at their own pace really helps some students.
I think the biggest detriment to online distance education is the need for basic skills with technology, and the initial monetary investment in the hardware required. For younger students and low SES students the technology can be a challenge, at least from what I’ve seen in the schools I’ve volunteered at.
Personally, I don’t know how I would go about structuring either a synchronous or asynchronous distance education classroom. I am hoping to gain some insight into how best to build these spaces for students, and how to encourage them to support each other within these spaces.