The Paradox is / is Not Online Pedagogy - The Second Part

You can read the first part of the text "Paradox is / is not online pedagogy" by clicking on this link.

(…) The second principle of interactivity ("Interactivity is the heart and soul of effective asynchronous learning")

The second principle of interactivity implies that students make connections with each other, creating a learning community. In general, I would like to see the overall interaction of students with the environment as student entrepreneurship (equivalent to the entrepreneurial activities of teachers).

You guessed it - the problem that arises is not (only) in the insufficient level / intensity of interaction between students, but also in the quality of established connections. Students who, as a rule, would not communicate with each other in a real classroom, in an asynchronous, online environment where physical interpersonal barriers disappear, established contacts and connections for the purpose of exchanging / copying homework. With the drop in motivation, when the interaction with the learning environment does not make sense, the students united on the principle of copy/paste, "I to you, you to me". Student networking is a presumption for creating the so-called social capital in the group, which is determined by the level of mutual trust and adopted ethical and other standards and norms of action and behavior within the group.

However, it is especially important to know and emphasize that social capital can also be negative. Negative social capital presupposes the absence of values ​​and means that agentsvaluesunite for their own interest, and not with the aim of creating new, added value.value addedIn the absence of direct and targeted external intervention (additional professional letters from the Ministry, schools, regular classes of the department head regarding the pandemic and behavior during the pandemic) with a marked impact of "returning life to normal", in the short term, when it was necessary to react to social capital, the teacher could not do anything special and concrete except to react with sanctions for copying and to adjust the entire work system to individualized tasks which, de facto, led to group disintegration and annulment of conditions for creating positive social capital. The best that the teacher could hope for was that the social capital in the group, that is, the common good of the group, would be at "positive zero", which is, as a rule, the outcome of teaching in a real classroom.

The Thirds Principle: "strive to presence" 

As I mentioned, I have corrected this principle a bit because the original paper refers to a hybrid learning model, in which there is asynchronous online learning and face-to-face contact between teachers and students, which is planned by the class schedule.     

Unlike the previous two principles, this principle is, in my experience and expectations, the easiest to operationalize. Online educators must be able to create a specific schedule of classes that is conditioned by online teaching and that ontologically, should be fundamentally different from the schedule of classes in a real school. 

The significance of the class schedule is multiple. The paramount importance is of an organizational and technical nature. Everyone knows that there are families with several children in the household and in which access to the home computer is a "bottleneck". If there is no class schedule, according to Murphy's Law, just when the student finally "gets his turn", the teacher will not be available for additional instructions or help synchronously, in real time, via video conference or via e-mail or chat message. Uncertainty regarding that situation is a source of accumulating stress for the student, but also for his family. If we remember the first principle, the lack of class schedule in distance learning is a killer of motivation in students (but also a trump card for justifying a bad grade).

This indisputable fact should not be confused with the argument of some colleagues that the class schedule is not necessary because the materials are available 24/7 and that the essence is in the freedom of students to choose the time for learning when it suits them best. The argument "freedom to choose the time for learning" is in fact a counter-argument in support of the claim about the necessity of class schedules; namely, given that the material is available 24/7, the student is more prone to procrastination. Research (Harvard Business Review) shows that procrastination is all the greater the longer the deadlines, so that this (third) principle, combined with the first (lack of motivation to work independently), can jeopardize the results of distance learning as a whole. Behind this statement of mine is many years of experience as a teacher, but also as an online student at the world's best universities (I completed dozens of courses that had strictly defined deadlines, and literally none that was structured to work when it suits the studentself paced)). 

(Self) evaluation of distance learning March - June 2020

Regardless of all the difficulties that are a consequence of the Paradox or unfavorable macro and micro learning environment - decreased motivation of students, lack of sense of ethical principles and procrastination that most often deprived students of synchronous / conference contact with the teacher - my position is that I achieved incomparably better results in online teaching compared to the expected result in a real classroom in the same period. (It should be kept in mind that all subjects have already been digitized, and that students were already in a hybrid form of teaching at the time of distance learning).

Online teaching gave space and time to everyone who wanted to learn. Excellent and introverted studentsAir Timethe teacher could devote himself to all the students to the extent they wished. Assessment was also far more realistic than in classical classes, since I individualized the tasks and instead of the final tests, I organized a series of activities that were done weekly, about which a weekly report was made in the e-Diary and in the e-Portfolio of students. 

The negative effects of procrastination are minimized by strictly established deadlines for submission of completed works. In this regard, I have to mention an interesting example: on one occasion, a student submitted a paper 5 or 6 minutes after the deadline, in the meantime until I "locked" the task, ie. disabled the submission of work (I decided to close the possibility of submission manually precisely because of these short delays). I did not evaluate the work because it was late, expecting a reaction from the students, with a story that the internet was slow or something similar - which I would certainly appreciate, but that reaction was absent; the student accepted that she was late (the time for completing the assignment was seven days), she realized that the deadlines in distance learning are exact, not like in real classes. I remember this situation as one of the most positive and dearest during the three months of distance learning - and she was not the only one.

There was no time and, frankly, no energy to act more educatively in order to raise awareness of ethical and moral standards and norms within the learning community, which should have been insisted on immediately in the first week and include parents in the process (parents had their own site). Applied ethics is my favorite topic, especially in business economics and entrepreneurship. In the field of creating positive social capital of the group, ie awareness of the common good of the learning community, there is a lot of room for improvement, and I will certainly work on it systematically and within my online teaching system, regardless of disruptive action of Paradox and other exogenous factors from social macroenvironment, on the one hand, and learning microenvironment, on the other. 

Distance learning is a legacy of civilization; it has given everyone the opportunity to be educated better and faster and more sustainable and enterprising, and it can never be a stumbling block in the process of educating students in the 21st century. Three months of distance learning in very specific pandemic conditions have shown that distance learning is so dominant in relation to traditional real classroom teaching that all arguments in favor of a real classroom are meaningless, if at all. To understand this, we must first become aware of the Paradox, face the real problem, and then build the capacity to solve it.

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