Week 5: Can we learn with e-learning?

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Growing up, I don’t remember my learning experience to be this cool. All we had were these SMART Boards that were collecting dust because our teachers hardly used them, perhaps for fear that students would spoil these expensive equipment (we had students who accidentally used normal whiteboard markers to write on them before).

Reflecting on my other experience with e-learning, I realize that learning with digital media is just a tool; I feel that it doesn’t, can’t, and shouldn’t replace the traditional learning method entirely.

However, it does has its perks as well. Because I have a rather bad memory, I would just review the various tools used by my instructors here at UB which I felt helped made learning more effective!

Videos

Showing videos in class plays a huge part in most of my lectures here, so let’s start with that!

1. Giving examples

I remember for SOC 101 (Intro to Sociology), we would be watching really cool and interesting videos for most of our classes, some of which sorta grossed me out (I think it was a vid on plastic surgery or something). My instructor for both COM 217 (Org Comm) and COM 337 (Comm Theory) also shows us really funny videos taken from TV shows (like The Office and Friends) to illustrate her points. Videos like these help to give us examples that would not only reinforce our learning, but also help us think in a different way about the concepts that we had learned.

2. Teaching concepts

Our instructor for SOC 294 (Soci Stats) really loves to use videos to teach certain concepts that we need to know! She showed us a video of a song about mean, median and mode, and the chorus of this song is still stuck in my head. But it’s actually a good thing because I can remember the positions of the mean, median, and mode for a skewed distribution graph! Here’s what I mean:

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If you’ve checked out the video, the chorus goes, “Mean, median, and mode…” which corresponds to the order of the mean, median, mode on the left skew!

Although the video was kinda lame, it was super useful because this concept was actually tested in our first exam! 😎

3. Going beyond the classroom

Outside classes, we watched TED talk videos for COM 225 (Interpersonal Communication). I feel that these videos helped to expand the breadth of our knowledge because we are listening to experts in the field sharing about their experience and new discoveries. These are really out-of-the-class experiences as the videos usually don’t follow our syllabus. Because of the nature of this types of videos, I feel that they can inspire students to research further on other areas of interest, so these videos have the potential to spark self-directed learning. Here’s a really cool vid about how our brain works when we communicate with people to create shared memories.

4. Concising an entire textbook chapter (I’m not kidding)

This is something new for me: For UGC 111 (World Civilizations I), we don’t exactly need a textbook because our instructor uses Crash Course videos to prep us for her lessons–the same way we would do using the traditional method of reading the assigned textbook chapters before class.

These videos are super helpful because they condense the key points into short 15-minute videos and take the chore of reading wordy texts. It really saves a lot of time, and I feel that they help me to remember the facts better so that I am more prepared for class.

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That being said, this is why videos are just tools to help us learn: An instructor is still needed (apart from the TED talk videos). After showing us videos to give examples, our instructors would usually comment on them, and link them back to the lessons. This is the same for videos that teach concepts; our instructor still teaches us the concepts herself. As for the Crash Course videos, those were just another way for us to prepare for class; our instructor still goes through the lessons, which actually cover way more than the videos themselves.

Games

We hardly have games here though. The only form of game that we have, so far, is an online quiz game (Kahoot!) that our SOC 294 instructor uses to see if we know our concepts. The ranking system that is based on giving the fastest correct answers only just makes this super engaging and exciting! It’s really fun to see how so many students can suddenly get so excited about answering stats questions! Honestly, it’s something that I really look forward to, and I actually do feel bummed out whenever I can’t connect to the game because of the school’s Wi-Fi. ._.

And it’s a good gauge for her to know how the overall class is doing because the results would let her know how many students made the same mistakes and chose the wrong option. This is a super hilarious example when the whole entire class failed to get the right answer:

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The “null hypothesis is true” part threw everyone off as we failed to realize that it mentioned “Distribution” at the start… FAIL.

Our instructor usually steps in to explain again on concepts that many people get wrong, which is a super excellent way for us to learn from our mistakes! I feel that learning from mistakes leaves the greatest impression on us, which would make us remember about them and so, not making the same mistakes again in the future!

So, don’t belittle the power of games because they are really super awesome digital media tools that help us to learn!

Social Media

Perhaps the only class that really uses social media as a way to learn is UGC 111. Our instructor is pretty tech savvy, so she uses Twitter to facilitate our learning.

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Welcome to our instructor’s Twitter account for UGC 111!

I think this kind of learning is more peer-based, where we learn from the thoughts/comments/insights/questions that our classmates have. However, personally, I don’t think it is a good way for me to learn because I hardly use social media (maybe more like I hardly post stuffs on social media, apart from the rare moments on Instagram). This means that I only use Twitter just for the sake of completing the Tweet assignments given, which would also mean that I wouldn’t be looking through my classmates’ Twitter feed to learn anything from them.

HOWEVER, I would say that I still learning something. Even though I may not be learning classroom-related content, I’m learning how to use social media (although this statement might be kinda weird coming from someone who grew up with social media). This also includes this blog!

Digital Access Courses

So far, the only experience that I’ve had taking an entire mod online is PSY 325 (Health Psych). If you have not taken a DA (Digital Access) class before at UB, here’s what it’s like:

Basically, we would get our lecture slides uploaded on UBLearns (Blackboard), which is pretty much the same for any course. However, the only difference is that these slides have NOTES in them in the presenter’s notes section. Because we don’t get to see her in real life teaching us, writing to us the way she might have conducted her classes was the only method.

I would say that DA courses is really learner-independent. Although they allow you the freedom of doing it on your own time, at your own pace, you still need to be consistent to keep up with the work.

Personally, I feel that learning in this method can be effective as well, even though we lack contact time with our instructor. This is because we are able to take our time to slowly digest whatever content that we have. Moreover, we have our instructor’s verbatim notes to guide us. This means that we would not miss out any key points, which is totally impossible if we took the module the traditional way. This is especially useful for students who genuinely want to learn but aren’t able to give their 100% attention in class.

Flashback to PSY 101 (Into to Psych) – I think this is a module that most of us have taken by the same instructor: If you get distracted for just a second in that class, you might have just missed a highly important examinable question. Agreed?  

However, this would never be the case for a DA course. Hence, I feel that students who are more independent, such e-learning can actually be effective.

BUT! One thing that we have to deal with is the large chunks of text to be read to explain each slide, which is a rather big drawback for this e-learning method. Moreover each lecture contained at least 40-70+ slides…

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I wasn’t kidding about the large chunks of text…

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Overall, I feel that digital media needs to be paired off with an instructor’s teaching so that we can learn better. Of course, these e-learning tools have to be something that the instructor is comfortable with so that they can be best used to enhance students’ learning. 😀

I’ve withheld instructors’ names to maintain their privacy (and not because I dislike them or anything).


Sources:

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