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.

The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley by Jan Andrews

The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinleyThe Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley by Jan Andrews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first read of the 2014-15 Ontario Library Association’s White Pine picks for this year and based on this book alone, I’m very hopeful. Like last year’s Old Man by David A. Poulsen, our main character Kyle McGinley has a very unusual relationship with his estranged father. Here the similarities end though, as Kyle’s father was neglectful and abusive before abandoning his son when he was only 8. Having moved around the foster system ever since, Kyle finally lands with Jill and Scott in a rural location which allows him the peace and quiet he needs to begin healing. Kyle takes his need for silence to a whole new level by refusing to speak with his new wards. However, the threat of his father’s return catapults him once again into turmoil. This book is a fast read of only 198 pages but it is rich in symbolism as Kyle wrestles with noise and silence, hope and despair. Andrews’ characters are very believable and her unique style of creating Kyle’s inner voices allows for some very creative interpretations of his emotional story. I would highly recommend this book to any student but I will urge reluctant male readers to pick it up the most.

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