The idea that we’re confused for a while is so true in my experience. For example in the first week before anyone had posted their discussion response to the forum, there were many questions about how we should proceed. We made our own choices and the first week saw a lot of different styles of posts. And we learn from each other as well as learning from the readings and from our reflections. I’m in a continual state of confusion, but I’m happy with that as Wellington et al. (2005) suggested we should be.
There is one point I’d like to add to this general sense of confusion. Wikeley and Muschamp (2004) point out a number of key differences between online and face-to-face learning. One of them is the nature of these posts themselves. We are all intelligent (or we couldn’t be here), but I suspect that often the strength of our statements is misunderstood. They say:
A written comment by a student on e-mail or in a chat rom is often assumed to be well thought through rather than a tentative articulation of a confused understanding of a concept, as would be the case in [a face-to-face] class (p. 138).
Is there a pressure in these forums to aim for perfection, a pressure that ironically fails to serve our learning needs? We are graded on our ability to:
post 3– 5 responses to your fellow students by:
• Asking insightful questions
• Offering contributions based upon the literature and your prior experience
• Extending the discussion into new but relevant areas
• Modelling or promoting critical reflection
But many times I just want to toss in a throw-away remark, sometimes a (pertinent) joke, a simple ‘bravo’, and other genres of comment that are not necessarily ‘insightful’. Again, this is my confusion and I suppose that it will work itself out soon enough.
Wikeley, F. & Muschamp, Y. (2004). Pedagogical Implications of working with doctoral students at a distance. Distance Education, 25(1), 125-142.