Characterizing reluctant learners in online learning

When I think about the general characteristics of the students who take my online ENG4C class, my learners:

  • Struggle with task completion
  • Struggle with goal-setting
  • Struggle with time management
  • Lead nearly adult lives
  • Are studying independently from their parents

Do you have learners like that?  How would you generally characterize your reluctant learners?  When I recently presented at BOLTT, I surveyed the audience and this is what they added:

Made with Padlet

Feel free to add your own descriptors too.  If we define the audience as anyone who is reading this, then why not get more ideas?  I’d very much like to hear from you either in the Padlet or the comments.

Trying to define my learners by their characteristics always reminds me of the work I did for my M.Ed. capping paper on transliteracy which can basically be summarized in this one image:

User Reader Text Technology

Teaching online is so much more complex than the face-to-face world of teaching because you’re dealing with these 4 areas without the benefit of your face-to-face experience.  The learner is both a user and a reader in every moment of online learning as they navigate the technology and whatever the text (words, images, web formatting, media, etc.) is.  They may be proficient readers but not proficient users.  In my case, these are the students who are usually not strong in either reading or the technology they’re using. Technology is further subdivided into the categories of both software and hardware, and we can help them navigate the software in the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) we provide, but often I get questions from my learners about how to troubleshoot hardware problems too.

Does all this mean that we shouldn’t offer online learning to at-risk students?  No!  In fact I think it’s time we offer more online learning to these students whose lifestyles often suit the online learning world more than the face-to-face world.

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