Shared Learnings… Web-Conferencing with a fellow student.

Last night my ‘Article Assignment Partner’ Antonia and I met up on Skype to chat about articles we chose for learning and reflection. The articles I used are posted here on my blog under Article Brainstorms, and you can check out Antonia’s blog as well for hers.

After finishing our discussion, I felt that I had a better understanding as to the intention behind the requirement that we Skype and conference with a fellow student. I really love online courses because in general, I can work at my own pace and do my own research on my own time. I am not put into a learning situation where I question my ideas much because there isn’t really anyone to compare myself to. However, I understand that there is something important about being influenced by people who are learning from the same material as you. There is something to be said about brainstorming, constructive criticism, and thinking about an assignment from a different perspective.

Because Antonia and I have different areas of profession, book publishing for her, and heavy industry for myself, I found the interaction interesting and am impressed with her wide range of knowledge.

On both sides of conversation there was the similar observation that adult educators are somewhat transitioning into a role of facilitator, as opposed to expert instructor. In general, adult students are being encouraged to learn ‘in their own way’ and on ‘their own time’. With the introduction of MOOC’s (see Antonia’s research article on MOOC’s), and advanced technology being available to society as a whole, the need for the classroom instructor is not gone, but it is changing.

While I have been researching articles about trends in my field (training in heavy industry), I remind myself that virtual reality cannot make up for reality. Industry is leaning toward things like simulators to assist with training equipment operators, but no one really knows what it is like to operate a 100 ton haul truck or a grader until they actually do it. These advances are great tools, and certainly pique the interest of young workers, but they are not a replacement for an actual instructor or experience. It is still not acceptable for anyone to log onto the internet, take a virtual driving course and then expect to obtain their driver’s license. Just like being amazing at Guitar Hero does not mean you can play an actual guitar.

Antonia and I both felt that there is a huge emphasis right now on technology changing the face of education and the way we choose to learn. We both admitted it was difficult to find articles covering something that wasn’t technology based. It is obvious that this is a common trend, but Antonia brought up a good point about experiences being worth more than the end result. I can certainly wrap my mind around that. Looking at the fast paced world around us, day to day life has become bigger better faster more and I think people have grasped onto the reality that we cannot do away with basic human needs. Interaction and ideas can be obtained from a computer. Empathy cannot. We still need experiences (like the Skype call last night) to make learning valuable and to make it relevant.

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