I had my first experience of online learning recently with Rajat Garg and Coach-To-Transformation.
Every Tuesday afternoon for four months, armed with my cup of tea, I sat behind my screen and was greeted by my new CTT family. After thirty four years of teaching preceded by twenty years of learning (no guessing my age here!), I feel that I can genuinely say that I came to understand what real, meaningful learning is and the kind that can last a lifetime.
The way that the ICF ACC ‘Leader as Coach’ course was structured, it was not about one person imparting information to the other – it has been a joint endeavour. Mentee, mentor, coachee, coach and observer all on a learning journey together. And this was all achieved in a virtual learning environment – over four thousand miles between us; me in Wales and my CTT family and mentors in India!
Recently, I read some research which suggested that online, distance learning is not all it’s cracked up to be. As an example, virtual schools are sweeping across the US delivering remote learning to thousands of students who, together with their parents, are searching for an alternative to face to face education delivered within the traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ setting. There are huge financial success stories for the industry selling the ‘tech’ but apparently not so much for the learners. Recent research from the University of Colorado Boulder seems to indicate that students taught virtually are significantly disadvantaged as shown in their levels of academic progress compared to their peers learning in traditional settings.
Does this throw into question the effectiveness of the online, virtual learning world? Many would argue, yes, however, my recent experience of learning virtually in terms of quality, effectiveness and outcome far exceeded my own expectations – and I’m a ‘people person’!
Having researched further, the answer started to become clearer. BECTA stresses the importance of the teacher, in our case the coach and mentor, in acknowledging the fact that “the virtual environment changes the dynamic of the teacher / student relationship and the definition of student learning”. I asked myself, what was different about the face to face experiences I have had in the past and this online experience? What made this such a deep, meaningful and effective learning experience which is at odds with some of the research I have read?
So here’s my list:
The technology has to work for you i.e. quality sound, vision, clear images, no time delays, good connectivity, good microphone, choice of synchronous web-based audio and video-conferencing platforms with teacher controls and break-out rooms etc.
Without this, I accept entirely that there is no starting point!
And then we look to the role of the learning designer who:
I have always applauded the disruptive nature of technology but would appeal to all (and that includes teachers and learners as co-constructors) to reflect on their drivers when embracing this potentially seismic change (Reference Ken Robinson’s ‘Changing Paradigms’). It all rests on the course creator and deliverer…not whether it is set within four walls or through a screen!
Pradeep Nair recently declared that ‘The machines have taken over…almost’.
But for me, coaching and coaches have shown how it is possible to blend the machine with the human in a way that authentic, deep, lifelong learning can be achieved within which human relationships can develop and thrive.
I now have lifelong friends in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and beyond and I look forward to meeting them one day for the first time – face to face!
I now have lifelong skills that nobody can take away from me.
And the journey continues……
About the Author:
‘Martin is a former Executive Head teacher with 34 years’ experience in the education sector. He is currently working to complete the ICF ACC Coaching Certification Programme with Coach-To-Transformation. Martin is excited by this new chapter in his (personal and professional) life and views coaching as the cornerstone of this new journey’.