On May 23, 2015, I attended CAECO’s annual Facilitators’ Day. The program, housed in the Faculty of Education at Brock University, offers in class, on site, and online programming to a variety of learners.
The in-class and on-site courses are the most familiar to students, as they are the most traditional options, despite the potentially overwhelming nature of a large campus or the technical aspects of registering for classes, seeking resources, or navigating busy schedules. The Centre for Adult Education and Community Outreach (CAECO) has developed an online learning environment that eases those anxieties and offers an online option; ideal for distance learners.
In the winter of 2014 I was student in a course called The Foundation of Adult Education, my first university experience online. The material presented in the online courses is developed and presented by an online teacher, or facilitator.
When I think of an in-class course, the dynamics are much different from those of an online class. Conversations with fellow students and instructors are not recorded as they are online and cannot be viewed and commented on by fellow students to help further discussion. I noticed that in-class courses failed to extract even half of what I was thinking, let alone that of my fellow classmates.
I do believe this is a great loss in the overall experience of adult learning, as the students themselves are bringing with them a wealth of personal and professional experience to the program. And that is why my online course experience was so memorable; it offered conversation and debate amongst fellow students and allowed for questions and thoughts on course material to be raised as we moved along. I noticed that we often learned as much from fellow students as we did from the material. In addition, having to write out your thoughts, knowing they would be seen by the entire class, required a more thorough reflection on the assignment itself.
As an adult learner the technology – constantly changing – required to succeed in the online courses can be somewhat intimidating. My fears however, were quelled during CAECO’s Facilitators Day, as I witnessed several presentations from those in the program who are specialized in various technological areas and are more than willing to assist you with anything you need.
During an online course a task such as blogging can pose enough difficulty with working out what exactly to write, let alone ensuring you are clicking the right buttons to get your post live and in the right spot. Your course facilitators can assist with you but they also come equipped with additional support.
Nick Contant, Camille Rutherford, and David Potts highlighted ways during Facilitators’ Day that Office 365, instructor-created videos and voice threads can turn your blog into a conversation and offered insights on how to best utilize the tools available.
Regardless of location, online or on site, library searches are going to be part of the game. The challenge that library searches used to pose was whether you could find out which shelf the book you required was on. Now, with seemingly infinite library resources, the challenge becomes finding the best resource for the task at hand.
Thankfully, for those in CAECO programs, Jennifer Thiessen, who works in the library, is a specialist dedicated to assisting you sort through the information overload; a much appreciated help these days.
For adult learners there is always the challenge of knitting together previous courses and programs, maybe taken elsewhere or taken at Brock, into a package that will get you to the Certificate, B.Ed. or M.Ed. Felicity Harrison will help you with this. Often, adults overlook their previous education or take a course they don’t necessarily need, but with the cost of tuition fees these days, it is a good idea to get value for previous learning.
Unfortunately I did not get to meet Andrew Han, the facilitator for my 2014 course as I discovered he lives in Alberta. However, in this discovery, I gained a new insight: not only can the students in an online course be located all over Ontario or Canada but the facilitators can too. I did however get to meet the facilitator for the next course I would like to do at Brock, Adult Education in the Global Context, and like all the other facilitators, he is a helpful type.
The one presentation during the day that particularly drew my attention was Mina Wong’s presentation on Learner Narrative, in that often what sends us back to school is a crisis in our life, something that changes our thinking about what we want to be or do. Mina also contributes learner narratives to Learning Curves. In understanding the learner’s narrative, Mina is much attuned to what her students want and need from the course, one of many great mindsets for CAECO course facilitators.
For further information about the BEd in Adult Education, please contact, Laurie Jackson at the Centre for Adult Education and Community Outreach, Faculty of Education at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.brocku.ca/education/departmentsandcentres/caeco
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