Today we started class by taking part in a video conferencing format where the class was split into two groups, with each group being on screen in opposing rooms while the lecture was given on screen and in one of the rooms. I’ve had classes like this before where distance learning was necessary because there was not enough students in one area to have a full face to face class and so we had to bring in students from other places to make it worthwhile. I also had a unique experience where our class had a partnership with a class in Johannesburg, South Africa where we had an online space to present and work on projects together with them, and despite the time difference, found a few instances where our classes could meet via skype and other similar programs.There is no doubt that the benefits and opportunities of video conferencing and distance learning far surpass the disadvantages but as someone who is way more engaged with face to face learning than on screen learning, I really think there needs to be a balance. I find it a lot harder to focus when the voice that’s teaching is not present and I personally hate being glued to a screen during times where I don’t need to be. There are also tech issues that will inevitably happen once and a while and I saw many of these in my partnership class with SA. Granted, this was a much further distance to manage and the time change, lack of wifi and tech capabilities on their end did not help the situation. I fully support the idea of student choice in their learning and agree that there should be opportunities to learn and be present in the classroom in whatever way works best for them, especially to ease anxiety, but I would hope that tech would not fully replace the face to face aspect. I for one have always dreaded taking online courses and avoid tech based projects when possible and I think I would be quite discouraged to not have the option to be in an actual classroom with peers and a teacher.
Interpersonal skills are important and no matter how connected one can feel through different tech capabilities, there is something about human interaction that tech will never be able to replace.
Like anything in life, I just think there needs to be a healthy balance, and that students can have the choice to learn in whatever way works best for them, whether that be face to face, through a robot, or on a screen.