Online Learning: a Manifesto

In an article for Hybrid Pedagogy, Jesse Stommel has written his manifesto for online learning, which includes an outline of online learning pedagogy.

In the article, Stommel points out that the exciting thing about MOOCs is that they have increased the level of discussion of online learning. However, we need to ignore the hype, and instead focus on how and why we learn online. It’s also important that we open the discussions to the students to allow, them to participate in building their own learning spaces.

Stommel then goes on to outline a pedagogy of online learning. Here are a few of the “points of departure” he makes in his outline:

  1. Online learning happens at many different scales. Not all online learning, though, is scalable. The MOOC is one possible approach, and it is neither a panacea nor a pariah. It might function well for certain learners or for certain courses, but it should be viewed as one of many available approaches. Online learning can happen alone or in groups of 2, 20, 500, or 100,000. The scale of the activity, event, or course changes the experience (but does not define the experience).
  2. The openness of the internet is its most radical and pedagogically viable feature. This isn’t to say that every class should be entirely open, but we should not assume in advance (or use systems that assume) we need a learning space to be closed (or password-protected). Some learning happens best in rooms with walls, but some learning happens best in fields or in libraries or in town squares.
  3. Rigor fails to be rigorous when it’s made compulsory. It can’t be guaranteed in advance by design. Academic rigor shouldn’t be built into a course like an impenetrable fortress for students to inhabit. Rigor has to be fostered through genuine engagement.

Stommel concludes by stating that it’s better to ask what can be achieved online, rather than trying to replicate face-to-face classes.