When I started my Professional Masters in Education at Queens I new that I wanted to focus my assignments and personal research around online education. At the college where I teach there has been an initiative to increase the number of course offerings online in order to better accommodate students of all ages and career stages. This past week I was asked to teach a health course that I have had the privilege of teaching 8 times before, the only difference is that this time it will be online.
Teaching a health course online seems increasingly logical to me. For the most part how the body reacts to outward threats and stimulations is a predictable pattern of events that requires a level of memorization in order to build an understanding of what is happening. The part that is not as straight forward is teaching the soft skills that are easily implemented in a classroom setting. How will I be able to focus on the critical skills of group work, critical thinking and problem solving, innovation, communication and intercultural skills when the physical barrier of a screen is between all of us?
When looking through resources it appears that this may be a time for creativity in teaching to come into play. Teaching.ca has some amazing suggestions about how best to implement these soft skills into programming. Taking advantage of the platform I will have access to will be fundamental, ensuring that students are engaging in discussion boards, bouncing ideas off of one another and pulling from their available resources to do so will allow for group work to flourish. Looking at different options for cross discipline learning, where the students I am working with pair up with students from other programs to run large scenarios that are constructed online could allow for improved critical thinking, problem solving and communication across all disciplines. When it comes to cultural care, an online platform could allow for some amazing opportunities. By reaching out to cultural community leaders I can have guest experts available to answer questions and give advice on how best to provide care in a culturally competent way.
While there are certainly barriers to online learning the opportunities are also endless. By utilizing technology we as educators will be able to provide education for students regardless of where they are located or what point of their career they are in. This will help to improve access for everyone to higher education and prevent education deserts for those in remote areas of the country.