Palo Alto, CA Zip
Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2001 09:52:00 -0700
"Though telelearning breaks through many barriers to education, it is not a
nirvana. Much richness of interaction is also lost:
- The Trouble With Text:
People become concerned with the appearance of their text. Typos detract
from one's online image. Grammar implies personality.
- No Physicality:
Without facial expressions, voice intonations, or gestures, relationships
can be strange; jokes and irony can lead to misunderstandings. The
distancing safety of the medium can promote casual inflammatory and
Participants feel inhibited because their words are preserved forever in
a computer database with the potential for unknown future use by others,
perhaps out of context. Who owns your commentary and who has control over
it's future use? The student or the teacher? What about intellectual
- Information Overload:
Large telelearning classes force users to follow gigantic discussions
requiring a tremendous amount of reading in addition to the class reading
list. Heavy required searching and browsing of virtually infinite online
resources can also be overwhelming.
- Lack of Tools and Standards:
Limited tools for linking, relating comments, references, and ideas; and
poor mechanisms for viewing and manipulating these linkages, or making
decisions online. Also international standards for graphics and sounds
are only just emerging."
"The key is to facilitate collaborative learning:
(From Learning Networks: A Field Guide to Teaching and Learning Online by
L. Harasim, R. Hiltz, L. Teles, and M. Turoff, MIT Press, 1994.)"
- Don't Lecture: Long but coherent postings often produce silence.
Use short open-ended comments that invite response.
- Be Clear About Expectations: Define what students must do for the
whole course, for each module, each assignment and each time period.
- Be Flexible And Patient: Guide the conversation but don't dominate.
Remember curriculum will be affected by the diversity of opinions from
different world views. Be open to change and acceptance of new views on
- Be Responsive: Especially at the beginning, ensure that every
student's comment gets a response. If no else replies, either respond
yourself by a private message or by mentioning the original author's
comments in one of yours.
- Don't Overload: Contribute no more than one long comment a day, or
less if students are active. Several short notes are better than one long
- Monitor and Prompt: Read the system status report frequently.
Encourage those falling behind with private email. Prompt those who are
reading but not writing. If no response after one week, telephone and
- Encourage Group Work: Give assignments to small groups. If a class
is large, divide it into two or more discussion groups. Assign individuals
within groups the role of "teacher" for small portions of the course.
- Teach Netiquette: Explain how to avoid insulting others and
straying off the course topic.
- Write Weaving Comments: Summarize and focus the discussion with
comments that weave together various threads of interest.
- Do Electronic Housekeeping: Move or delete items that do not belong
to the discussion. Organize and model the use of keywords and references to
- Establish Norms and Set Rules: Give credit for good participation.
- Close and Purge In Stages: Moribund discussions need to be closed
slowly, giving members a chance to save messages.