How To Simulate Adversary In Online Learning

Research shows that online education is effective at advancing students’ learning – especially when it comes to higher education.

The Internet is home to many educational options, but still many options, with differing levels of exposure, standards, and experiences. Whether you’re learning about living with chronic illness, raising kids, writing a history paper, or masterminding a corporate turnaround, learning can be a process of discovering content in ways that seem right.

Among these learning options, many are meant to mimic life — but there’s a difference between real-life learning and learning online.

So what are you supposed to do? Fake it for a while?

Keep in mind, studying alone is never healthy. You’re encouraged to make new friends, talk about how you’re feeling, discuss your books with a trusted friend, or just browse the web for your information at your own pace.

But what happens if you’re isolated? Do you need someone to hold your hand? Cry with you? Let you know you’re doing well? Bring you back to your life?

Here are ways to help teach each other in digital spaces.

Deerfield Academy engages with a classmate on Instagram. Every Sunday, Deerfield Academy invites one of its peers from another campus to join them. Appointments happen twice a week at Deerfield through a partnership with the Connecticut Conference of Independent Schools (CCIS).

The online platform App Year provides an opportunity for close friends to complete the same task simultaneously, testing the capability of communications to support effective learning.

It’s easy to have different ideas about the best form of learning, but it’s hard to ignore how well it makes sense from a distance. For example, one member of the Deerfield Academy team now lives in Michigan, but her friends contact her to share what is happening on campus — whether it’s the latest in the school’s marketing campaign or the current political situation.

Does someone want to watch a YouTube video for a course because she can’t be bothered to take notes? Skype. Do you prefer a video chat, which someone in a different classroom can join, or would you rather work out an offline class, since you can see your classmate? Maybe your peer spent years immersed in gaming, but she’s bored, so she plays Angry Birds for like ten minutes in the middle of class.

During the time before the class starts, your peer can pick up where you left off, and start the conversation from wherever the learning happened. You might not all have the same interests, but so long as you both share your space with the same open door to information, knowledge and commonality, it’s a win-win.

Online learners have different kinds of expectations for the content in their online environment. For example, why not start their homework asynchronously instead of at the beginning of the week, maybe taking notes for about 15 minutes before shifting over to more complex concepts and projects? Of course, Facebook can be great after dinner when you’re recovering from a full day of working out, but if the new semester was wiped out because of the flu, you might choose to create a private group instead, where your peers can help you keep track of activities that need to be completed and complete them together.

Weed out the fluff

Youth are focused on doing something, not the end product. As such, a big topic on most college campuses is student rights — fighting for our rights to take health-care classes and have financial aid transferred. Where do we begin to become aware of these? Where do we start to know about the actual rights our peers have to live life in a way that’s meaningful to them, and gives us a sense of belonging in our communities?

This is what courses about empowering other students in education look like, and it’s why we created the Youth-Centered Online Learning Network (JLCN). Not only are we reaching our youth through our JLCN courses, but we’re collaborating with parent and advisor groups, mentor programs, and one-on-one support for each student and their parents.

The world, including our online communities, has changed. So often, we get caught up in the same digital pursuits as our peers. The intent of virtual learning is the same, but the ways we explore different facets of learning are different, if not opposite.

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