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Learning Center Experience
Jeffery Tyler, PMPSchool of Business and Information Technology
Much is being made of the use of asynchronous teaching as a
result of the popularity of Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offerings. Can
MOOCs, or any online asynchronous teaching method be the best approach in
teaching students? These forms of
lectures—in webinars, podcasts, webcasts, YouTube videos, and the like—address
the pedagogical criteria for the transference of knowledge to students, but to
There are critical voids that purely asynchronous teaching
vehicles fail to provide as a source of viable learning. That void is the lack
of synchronous interactivity with the source of learning as well as the
relationship between the learner and the teacher.
According to Tamar Lewin (2013), MOOCs are online course
offerings aimed at large-scale interactive participation and open access via
the web. Lewin feels that MOOCs provide interactive
user forums that “help build a community for the students, professors, and TAs.
MOOCs are a recent development in distance education.” It is the ability to
provide synchronous learning opportunities to thousands of learners that
There’s a “brick-and-mortar” precedence for large
asynchronous course teaching practices. Remember your ubiquitous auditorium
class? There you were, in Freshman History, with 499 of your closest friends
and classmates listening to the droning of the lecturer while the graduate
assistants took roll walking up and down the aisles. Correspondence courses
weren’t much better. Read the material, answer some questions, and send off
your packet to a faceless grader that returned ambiguous rationale as to your
incorrect answers. “But, can you tell me how I missed this answer and how does
it relate to what I am learning?” you ask. Silence is the response. Then, there
was the Computer Based Training (CBT) modules. These consisted of a number of
questions with differing answers that moved you though the course material, but
still lacked context.
We came closer with email course offerings. Read the
material, email your questions, and the instructor will email his or her
responses. Delayed synchronicity and often when you received the answer, you
forgot the question. Finally, we had the online modules, which are still being
used in some form today and are the basis of many online courses. So what does
a MOOC offer that any of these dated teaching methodologies might lack?
There are a number of advantages to using large asynchronous
course teaching practices as education vehicles. First of all, there’s a cost
factor for the learner to consider. Lewin (2013) tells us that large asynchronous
course teaching practices typically do not offer academic credit or charge
tuition fees. This can change if the learner wants credit for their learning. What
about easy access? Stanford’s Lytics Lab, in an April, 2013 report, found that 58%
of learners that take advantage of large asynchronous course teaching practices
come from developed nations while 42% come from underdeveloped nations.
informality of large asynchronous courses can provide a form of unstructured
learning. Burnes and Schaefer, as far back as 2003, found that informal
learning can take place through a form of simulation exercises like large
asynchronous course teaching practices. However, they also found that success
rates in unstructured environments depend on the level of previous experiences,
and that learners without a strong experiential background in the course of
unstructured study have a high probability of failure. These disadvantages can
be catastrophic to the mastery of the learning outcomes by the learner.
Again, Lewin found that only about 10% of the tens of
thousands of students who may sign up for a MOOC complete the course. Completion
rates are typically very low, with a steep drop-off in student participation
starting in the first week. In the course Bioelectricity, Fall 2012 at
Duke University, Yvonne Belanger and Jessica Thornton found that of 12,725
students enrolled, only 7,761 ever watched a video, 3,658 attempted a quiz, 345
attempted the final exam, and 313 passed, earning a certificate. Open Culture
conducted an online survey listing the "top ten" list of reasons for not
completing a course. These most common reasons were that the course required
too much time, was too difficult, or conversely, too basic. Reasons related to
poor course design included "lecture fatigue" related to a perceived
tendency to simply recreate the bricks-and-mortar course, lack of a proper
introduction to course technology and format, and clunky technology and
trolling on discussion boards. Hidden costs were cited including by those who
found that required readings were from expensive texts written by the
instructor. Other non-completers were "just shopping around" when
they registered, or were participating simply for the knowledge rather than a
credential. There are some serious pedagogical conclusions that can be drawn
from an objective look at large asynchronous modes of distance learning that
advocate for synchronicity between the learner and the instructor.
It’s been found that synchronous e-learning can improve the
capabilities of large asynchronous course teaching practices and learning
experiences. Stefan Hrastinski, in his study of asynchronous and synchronous
(read that direct interpersonal interaction between teacher and learning)
e-learning methods found that each address differing purposes large asynchronous
course teaching practices work well with learners who need more time to process
the content of the course material, but if they are to remain engaged,
Hrastinski found that the use of synchronous activity between the teacher
and/or fellow learner and the learner, greatly improves engagement because the
learner is motivate top perform and is more committed to the learning.
Use of large asynchronous course teaching practices to
provide learning content to very large audiences of learners, but they can keep
the learners engaged with synchronous activities that require their
involvement. In doing this there needs to be live interactive learning for use
as large asynchronous course teaching practices to simulate the classroom
environment. The worst type of a large asynchronous course is to have the
talking head lecturing to the learner without visual stimulation. Studies by
experts in child development show that the different types of sensory
stimulation children receive through their environment can have a profound
impact on their ability to learn. If this is true for the K-12 learner, it can
also hold true for the adult learner. Pascal Fries, in his study of the effects
of visual stimulation and selective visual attention shows us that interactive
visual stimulation results in “higher-level brain areas and ultimately to
So, what conclusions and recommendations can we draw from
the experts to improve the ability of the learner to master the learning
outcomes through synchronous learning elements in asynchronous e-learning
1. They fill a need. The use of large asynchronous
course teaching practices model has the potential of addressing certain
educational inadequacies prevalent in society today such as providing access to
over-fill on ground classrooms. (Troop, 2013)
2. Easy to access. As indicated by McKay (2013),
large asynchronous course teaching practices offer the learner a global access
to a more diverse education that cannot be duplicated competitively in any
brick and mortar school.
3. Low cost. Being free or with low tuition, large
asynchronous course teaching practices can provide every socio-economic learner
the opportunity for educational achievement.
4. Low ROI. Even at such low costs, large
asynchronous course teaching practices used in educational programs have been
shown to produce low results for the number of learners who initially take
advantage of this opportunity. (Lewin, 2013)
Even at a low cost rate, student churn has its de-motivating aspects to the
learner. Time wastage, sense of disappointment, loss of confidence.
If the student learner has the capability of cognitive reinforcement,
they tend to remain engaged and have a higher instance of achieving the
outcomes of the courses they are attending. As Joel Foreman tells us in his
book Distance Learning and Synchronous
Interaction (2003) “As the efficiencies of high-speed networks transform
the predigital structures of a place-based academe, we should expect to see
many student teams using the kind of synchronous tools discussed above to
self-manage the more complex learning tasks of higher education. VOIP and
application sharing in particular can create inexpensive cyberspaces where
geo-distributed students can perform their learning work through the preferred
medium for intense communication talk.”
Time has shown from the first correspondence courses to the
latest MOOCs, large asynchronous course teaching practices must be reinforced
with the ability of the learner to conduct synchronous interactive
reinforcement of the material they are assimilating on their own.
M. Jeffery Tyler, PMP, is a full-time faculty
member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely
those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.
Lewin Tamar-2013-Universities Abroad loin Partnerships on
the Web-New York Times
MacKay RF—2013-Learning analytics at Stanford takes huge
leap forward with MOOCs-Stanford Report
Burnes and Schaefer-2003—Informa| |earning An exploratory
study of unstructured learning experiences—l1TE
Belanger, Y & Thornton, J-2013-Bioelectricity: a
quantitative approach Duke University’s first MOOC. Duke University Libraries.
Retrieved from: http://hdl.handle.net/10161/6216
Hrastinski_2008_Asynchronous and Synchronous E-Learning Educause Quarterly (Number 4) 2008.
Fries,P. Womelsdorf, T. Oostenveld,R. and Desimone, R.-2008-
The effects of visual stimulation and selective visual attention on rhythmic
neuronal synchronization in macaque area V4. The Journal of Neuroscience, April 30, 2008 28(18):4823– 4835 • 4823
Troop D-2013-An Entrepreneur Reaches for the Holy Grail of
Online Education-Chronicle Higher
Education, April 29, 2013. Retrieved from: http://chronicle.com/article/An-Entrepreneur-Reaches-for/138841/
Foreman 2008 The Technology Source Archives · Distance
Learning and Synchronous Interaction. The
Technology Source (March 07, 2008).
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