Even though Zeqr as a platform is only a year old, we absolutely understood our responsibilities as a learning facility right from the beginning. And it was with this in mind that we started the first Zeqr E-Learning Award Scholarships in 2017, one of them being for North America and the other being International (limited to Europe and Oceania regions), hoping to further help two specific students along the path of their formal education.
Our stance on e-learning being the way forward is absolutely firm, but it doesn’t mean that we have anything against formal education. Quite the opposite, we have strong faith in the power of education, but we see the future of all education being in e-learning.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the brilliant essay from Heather Thiessen-Kerr from Fleming College, Peterborough, ON, Canada, one of the two winners of the Zeqr E-Learning Award Scholarships for 2017.
E-Learning Opens More Doors
By Heather Thiessen-Kerr
When I returned to school as a mature student, I knew that it would be a different experience in relation to the ones I had in my memory. School had been a place of structure, single-paced, streamlined thinking. While I had always excelled in my studies, I admit that I approached my new adventure with some trepidation. I knew there would be an adjustment period, and that many of the students I would be learning with, would possess a more current knowledge of the ways of learning. Even knowing this logically; I was unprepared for what lay ahead, and I quickly learned that I had some additional skills to put into place if I wanted to ensure my success.
While the traditional model of classrooms and teachings still echo in the academic outlines of each program, there is a hum that is underlying that cannot be ignored. That is the sound waves of change that come from the electronic learning that is racing towards the forefront of our education system. Not only in post secondary institutions, but perhaps even more notably, in the younger school-aged systems. I am not one to shy away from technology; however, I grew up in a time where computers were for those who were privileged and wealthy. In today’s family, school, medical field, to mention only a few, the presence of computers, iPods, iPads, and kobo’s, is not only seen, it is expected.
Within the classroom environment, an educator is faced with many challenges, some of which are easily addressed, and others create a boundary to learning, growing and maturing. With the average class size within Ontario growing, there is a higher likelihood that there are individuals with varied learning styles, capabilities, as well as cultural needs. When planning out lessons, following current curriculum requirements, as well as instilling interest in the subject, there is much to consider. In a classroom, one must be sensitive to the weakest, to the strongest student. Challenging a group of young minds to be stimulated and engaged, in a world that is already so often “plugged in” is not an easy task.
E-learning creates a break in the traditional “read, make notes, memorize” model that has been used for so long within the classroom setting. There is an opportunity for learning through games, tasking, use of the internet that also gives students a lesson in judgment. Just because it is posted on the internet, does not mean that it is gospel truth; therefore, creating discernment within the minds of the researcher. Children, young adults, as well as older adults, are all exposed to a vast amount of information, much of which is portrayed through social media means. Including in the structure of the learning environment, a way to see the computer as a tool for learning and positive impact, is absolutely a progressive step.
One argument against the reliance on E-Learning, is that, in an already oversaturated market of online stimuli, we are putting ourselves and our young minds, in front of a computer yet again, and depriving them from the ability to learn simple to complex social skills. We have a generation of young people who are more likely to speak their truth from behind the protection of the computer screen. Online bullying, abuse and theft are on a steady incline; so why would one encourage MORE time at the computer, than less? Our world has changed in so many ways; some of which bring us pride, and others make us cringe in fear.
If the world that we are living in, is running rapidly in the direction of more learning online, more e-classrooms; we are also opening the doors to many opportunities that would have never been possible before. Students are able to participate in classes even while they are dealing with chronic illnesses, so that they do not fall behind; giving hope and purpose to those in a terrible situation.
Classrooms can play host to guest speakers from around the world; exposing the minds of the students in a way that may not have been remotely probable before. Men, women, and children with various ability levels are able to contribute to the fullest of their capabilities, which in turn, creates a much richer and vibrant learning experience for everyone involved. Think of the young man who has autism; and is able to use e-learning in a way that he can express and participate in a debate team, or the young woman who is ill at home with MS, who can still log in to be an active part of the lectures each week.
The basis of E-learning is to open more doors, create affluent learning environments and perhaps even a world-wide classroom; instead of just what we see in front of us. My childhood memory of the computer, was when my father purchased one for his business. It was obtrusively large, slow and only had one game. I was allotted one hour to play that one game; on the weekends- IF all my homework was done. I am from the generation that drank from the water hose, had street-light curfew, and was more likely to desire playing with friends outside then watching the latest Disney movie. The computer was only for serious, grown-up work and not for playing on. This is not the case today, as most children under the age of 4 seem to have a more apt knowledge of all things cellular, computer and e-reader than most of the adults in my social circle put together.
Technology has changed the face of how we interact, how we learn, how we relate. While there is always going to be a logical case against going in the direction of more electronically driven learning within the school environment; there must be a balance, therefore, a positive. If there is black, there must be white; if a yin, then a yang. If an equilibrium can be reached, and the learning that is being achieved is tangible, real and applicable, then perhaps we should not be so quick to lite our anti-electronic torches.
While I believe that gardening, cooking, and how to do your taxes should also be a part of basic learning within the education system, I also know that being current in your teaching and learning styles is vastly important. Those seeking education want the best for themselves and their children; to get the best, you need to be open and ready to see what the best really consists of. Change is evident, imminent and constant. So can be said of learning; and isn’t that what we all truly want? To learn, grow, be educated and knowledgeable. There would be nothing more tragic than to see the possibility of a worldwide increase in connections, education and passionate learning slip away because fear was greater than hope and progress. With that I say; research, soak it in, question everything and become the very best student, educator, parent and human possible. The moment we stop being open to learning, is the moment our humanity will start to dissolve.