Synch asynch, swim aswim, to be or…

While a number of issues (economics being a key one… budget cuts, etc.) seem to be moving more of formal learning to the online domain, one of the key issues that I gather is how to maintain a sense of community. I recall that my instructor of instruction strategies for adult learning, Gretchen Schmidt, who is Director of Educational Policy for VA Community Colleges, said that in the CC system evidence showed that learners who were part of a cohort in an online learning program tended to stick it out. Whereas learners who were not, had a higher rate of drop out. She said that over time, learners in a cohort were able to get to know each other and feel connected. Whereas learners who didn’t have that continuity with a group didn’t have the community of learners/practice to support their journey.


Is there anyone out there… the need for community… [Photo source]

The CTE tips on creating an asynchronous community seem to be important to me. I find that even when I join a physical class of people that I’ve never met (and most of the class also doesn’t know each other), it takes quite a while for the environment to open up. Of course, how the class is conducted definitely impacts this. If there is a mix of collaborative activities in pairs, or small group, and more class discussion, it can help very much to get to know other learners and build a sense of community.

I have not experienced a course that has been totally online. While I have participated in webinars of several different types, these have primarily been short (1-2 hours max), one-off sessions. The webinars would count as synchronous, I believe and things like blogging, online discussion, commenting, wiki use, and such, would fit the asynch category.

One thing that struck me from Michel Martin’s post on her 9 lessons learned from running a webinar was the idea that more slides are better. I can see the need to keep the audience/participants engaged and yet the quality of slides does seem to be important. Her reference to Beyond Bullet Points seems be in synch (or asynch…?) with my interest and experience of presentations. I have been subject to ‘death by powerpoint’ both in person and via a webinar. The effect is quite similar – zoning out, not being able to stay with the story, if there is a story. Of course there is always a story. It may be just that storytelling skills need developing.  The intention being that slides should tell a story. There’s a great video by Garr Reynolds, a presentation expert, that gives some excellent guidelines for presentations.

So, to synch or asynch and swimming or not, seems to be about connecting to a community of learners to support us on the journey. Finding and developing that connection and community just might be relate to being, or not… reaching or realizing our potential, being or becoming what we aspire to. Happy travels…


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