Social Presence 2

There’s no doubt adding a picture increases social presence. I think this might have something to do with leadership. Students look to tutoring faculty to guide them and, most importantly, to motivate them through the course. The need for leadership is importantly satisfied, at least in part, by being able to visualize the leader. My own experience with Courses was definitely enhanced by being able to see the teacher.


I like my ‘Coursera’ post the best.       

It seems to me to get just the right balance of personal anecdote and general knowledge so that I feel engaged and ‘on the inside’ but not overwhelmed by it. Also it has a certain economy of writing style which is well suited to the blog format.

In terms of what I’ve learned in this course, I think the distinction between surface and deep teaching and learning has been very important. There is a tendency in the on line education environment to rely on the surface and so lose sight of what deep education looks like. So I also found the alignment discussion very interesting.

I’d like to know how an exclusively on line asynchronous environment would impact most of the theories we’ve looked at, in particular, theories of feedback. I’m also curious about the degree of impact feedback has on excellent students?

Until there is a major rewrite of the course I teach, there’s not much that be done regarding alignment. But in another respect, as I noted elsewhere, I can improve alignment by bringing my comments more into line with the rubric which is available on the course website.


I think about feedback a lot and when I do, I especially think about how difficult at first, providing it was for me.  I’ve always added a positive word or two when I thought praise was appropriate. So I was surprised that such words have no effect on learning. I don’t see it altering my practice.

I am currently working on aligning my feedback and the rubric I use on BlackBoard. The most difficult works to comment on are the really good ones!


I recently signed up for a Coursera mooc. This was at the general suggestion of my eldest daughter and I was glad she did it. I chose  Plagues, Witches and War which was about historical fiction, something I really like. This was a valuable experience for two main reasons. One, I learned a lot about a genre I love, specifically historical detective novels. And two, I learned a lot about being an online student, specifically how it feels and how these feelings motivate the student to complete the course.

With few exceptions, most of my time spent on the course, I felt alone, on the outside. Sometimes this was fine and others, it presented an obstacle to learning. When was it successful? When the teaching did not assume too much about me. The right balance is difficult but not impossible to achieve.

I felt very disinclined to do the course readings relying entirely for my learning on the audio-video material. Nevertheless, I feel I learned a lot and was able to enjoy all the AV content. From this point of view, I did not find the course to be aligned assuming the teacher intended that his students read the books.

While I was happy that I did well on the quizzes (the only assessment), I found them to test only low level skills.

Cognitive Presence

Prior to the course, I did not know what cognitive presence meant. I now know that it refers to a sort of directionality in the development of critical thinking skills. As the authors of Critical Thinking, Cognitive Presence, and Computer Conferencing in Distance Education say, critical thinking involves a critical discourse methodology and just ‘dumping’ a bunch of ideas together won’t do.

My main question regarding cognitive presence is how to accomplish it outside a conference setting. As an OLFM, I teach courses that are pre-packaged and consumed by individual, isolated students. I assume that how the pre packaged courses are designed can play a role in achieving the right method but does this way of delivering course material fall short of what is required for proper cognitive presence?

Wordle won’t work

Not sure why Wordle won’t work. I updated Java. Oh well. I’ll get started anyway.

My favourite vacation spot is Sooke Potholes campground. The river and grand rock formations make a great swimming spot and the campground is pristine.

I am currently reading a Medieval murder mystery entitled A Wicked Deed. I’m not too far into it but the last one in the same series I read was The Deadly Brew. Basically, a few guys from the Middle Ages get whacked and Matthew Bartholemew, University physician, gets to solve the crimes. He is distinguished by his hygienic approach to medicine which many of his colleagues and patients consider heretical.

I consider the most important aspect of on line learning to be engagement. It’s all too easy to disconnect from the task of following an on line course. I know this because I am currently taking a mooc about historical fiction. Once you disengage, learning is interrupted and degraded.

One thing I’ve learned about on line learning in the past year is the true importance of thorough feedback and how much students appreciate it. This has impacted my practice insofar as I now review assignment drafts.

I’m curious about how readings work with lecture material. I find in the mooc I am following that I skip some of the readings and rely on the lectures. Can lectures give too much information? Or should we design lectures so that they make up for skipped readings?

My Second Shot

This is my second real shot at blogging. My first one was in the early 2000’s. It was called No Turner Left Unstoned and was mostly a philosophy and political blog with a small following. I gave it up for time reasons and really bit the bullet when it came to closing it down and deleting the content. I’m not sure where this blog will take me but I look forward to the trip!