Thursday, December 28, 2006
You just had to be there....
Sandra Dickenson, in her post What does an e-learning community look like, describes an experience where she and a group of online learners collaborate on an image modeling how learning works. The group used a combination of chat and the collaboration tool to create the image above.
I’ve shared this image with a few other people - they don’t even think its interesting, let alone feel the powerful emotions and insights expressed in this image. Now that its static and preserved - so much of what it really means is gone - and we can only get that back if/when we do it again. When we got done making this picture — I absolutely had to preserve it — I was on such a euphoric high over what we had just made together.
If Sandra showed this picture to one of the participants of the class, the picture will have meaning and context. Looking at it as an outsider, the picture looks like a colorful collection of scribbles.
This had me thinking about the difference between synchronous and asynchronous eLearning communities.
In a synchronous learning community, in many instances, the process is the point. As Sandra points out, a tremendous amount of learning occurs in the push-pull of conversation. The downside is that these communities, by their nature, are exclusive. The objects that the community leaves behind oftentimes make no sense to anyone outside that community. They are missing the context.
Asynchronous learning communities, such as the blogosphere, generate objects that are meant to be referred to in the future. These objects can be used by the members of the community or by outsiders. The disadvantage is that the community members miss the instantaneous feedback loop. At certain points in any creative or learning process, the push-pull of others ideas in a rapid-fire fashion is necessary for progress.
I will admit that I prefer asychronous eLearning over synchronous eLearning, both as a teacher and a student. I like being able to mull over content and think through responses. I have found in chats, interactive video, teleconferences, and classrooms that the loudest person / fastest typist wins. Synchronous learning, to me, rewards the least introspective. I've always felt that some level of introspection is necessary for me to absorb new material. Of course, I'm a bit of a navel-gazer by nature.
My opinion - the best eLearning experiences , and the strongest online communities, provide both asynchronous and synchronous experiences. Looking at the number of people on the eLearning blogs who are grappling with changes to the field, Brent's Corporate eLearning Talkcast could prove to be the perfect synchronous forum for strengthening the community and providing the synchronous push-pull that helps synthesize and make sense of these changes.