Eye of the Tiger: The Redemption of the Virtual Classroom

I learned a lot during my first year. I learned not to procrastinate – that this was no longer in high school and leaving assignments and studying until the night before isn’t a good thing to do, in the real or virtual classroom (link). Oh.. on that note, I also set out to avoid online classes at all costs. My driver was time, how and when to maximize it. In the summer before 2nd year, I made a pledge to myself to do better, and that was my first step. I worked nearly every day that summer and bought my first two cars… (the first was a lemon, bought impulsively off of Craigslist). The second one, bought after much research and proper evaluation worked great and reduced my 2 to 3-hour one way commute, to a 30-minute drive on the expressway, first step accomplished. Also, as part of my initiative to do better, I changed my timetable from having 60% online courses to 0%! I was excited for the new year!

Rewind

Last week, I shared how poor video and general experience in online classes, affected my overall experience and attitude towards online learning during my time in University. Today I’d like to talk about a really great experience I had. In fact, this experience showed me that when using the right tools the Virtual Learning space can far exceed the in-person experience, especially for the shy student who, often sat at the back of the class of 400 never asking a question. And believe me, I asked a lot of questions!

Welcome To The Jungle

One of the first things we learned in Dr Jason Brown’s Animal Physiology class, was even though lions are called Kings of the Jungle, they don’t actually live there, but Tigers do. He was a fantastic lecturer, very thorough, but like all biology classes, there would always be those things that you just don’t really understand and would need re-explaining, sometimes in a different way (sometimes over and over). He was great at that, but in a class of hundreds, there’s only so much of his already limited hours – one can hope to take up. This would, of course, get much worse during final exams. Realizing that many students had unanswered questions going into the final, Dr Brown hosted an impromptu online Q&A session for anyone that wanted to attend, but it would be “online”. I was really sceptical. My experience taught me to expect a grainy video, spotty sound or a boring session where I don’t learn anything.

It Only Takes One Night

Only about 50 of the 400 from class attended but it was definitely a success! The technology made it really possible for us to engage with Dr Brown and each other in a way we would probably not have been comfortable to do in person. While we all thought we were on islands, with our own problems yet in that virtual space, we realized how connected we really were and just how much we could learn from each other. What started out as a Q&A session, with Dr Brown answering questions, soon became group discussions where we’d work together to find answers even beyond those Dr Brown expected or had other groups come up with… By the time it was over, it was nearing midnight and we thanked him for making this possible.

The Greatest

I was especially happy I attended. For me, the experience really helped solidify my knowledge and understanding of the physiology of animals and was the reason I did very well in that exam. It helped me see that my problems with online learning were not with the online or remote aspect of it, but rather with the way it was being delivered and the tools that were used. I’m not really sure what technology Dr Brown used, but the experience I had – which I will go into great detail in a future post, was not only fantastic but opened up a whole new way of learning and growing!

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