Being a Distant Learner

I have been a distant learner since I joined the University of the Philippines – Open University (UPOU) Professional Teaching Certificate program during the second trimester of 2013.  Having spent so much time in school (earning two degrees and teaching afterwards) made it challenging for me to get used to an asynchronous learning environment that characterizes online learning.

Aside from being open to change, time management proved to be the most important aspect of being a distant learner.  I admit that despite the academic year being divided into trimesters (meaning they only lasted three months), there have been times when I felt that the tasks were never-ending, or that the year just seems to drag on.  However, when there are important tasks which need to be done by group, I just feel like time is fast slipping away.  It is during these trying times that it helps to sit back, unwind, and remember why you are doing this in the first place.

Sure, I need to earn units to be eligible to take the Licensure Exam for Teachers at the soonest possible.   I have, nonetheless, found that many of the things that I have learned thus far have really helped me in my own classes.  For the past year and a half, I have tried my best to incorporate concepts, philosophies, and strategies I have learned in my courses when I prepare activities for the Science classes I teach.

As an educator, I owe it to my students to give the best of what I can offer as a distant learner since I expect them to do the same in taking on the challenges of the subjects that I teach them as well.  So to those of you who are new to distant learning, welcome to a new world of possibilities!

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Group Assignment in an Asynchronous Environment

Last week has been a hectic week for my classmates and me in my Assessments class. A week prior, we were asked to sign up so that we could be assigned to groups. I was one of the first to sign up because I wanted to plan my schedule around my activities at work.

The assignment guidelines were posted by Monday and we were given a week to prepare a tool that will test our understanding of the course. We were also asked to make rubrics for peer and self-assessments about our contribution to the assignment.

By midweek, the only posts in the group forum were simple messages of “hi” and “hello”. The deadline was set on the 18th and by Friday, there were only two of us who had so far communicated. I was busy preparing drafts for my Bio exam which was due that week and also preparing for an Ecology seminar we were hosting. I only had time to actually focus on the assignment by the following Saturday. By then, we only had three days left before the deadline to work on the task.

I was lucky that the only other person who replied to my posts (and who was based in another country) was as eager as I to really finish the assignment as early as possible. We spent Saturday throwing ideas around and were able to come up with the Rubrics by early Sunday morning. I spent the next 20 hours working on drafting 30 questions for the assessment tool. By 7pm, a new member was assigned to our group because she was the only one “actively” working in her group. A latecomer joined us by early Monday and was able to do her share of the task.

I learned how to attach HTML codes while I made this homework, as comments and suggestions flew between me and my groupmates. I was reminded that patience, indeed, was a virtue and that one of the disadvantages of online learning was differences in time management as well as external factors.

What made this homework challenging was the fact that we had to conduct discussions in a workspace assigned by the teacher (for monitoring and assessment purposes). This was further complicated by the fact that we were in different places, with different schedules, and with different accessibility to internet connections.

Nonetheless, I am willing to try to do this again. I welcome the challenge of putting together a project despite having members in different time zones, or in our case, different places. I hope, though, that next time, I will be less cramped with work and activities and that next time too, everyone will be active (and not just two or three).

Distance Learning

I feel really guilty for not having been able to update this journal more often than I should. From the time I read Module 3, I had been busy listening to the girls defend their Investigatory Projects during the 3rd week of January. After this, I checked quarterly exams and encoded grades to prepare the Report Cards. I was busy talking to parents whose children were having difficulty in my subject. I had to review my lessons because we are taking up Physics this Fourth Quarter and I am quite rusty in the subject. On top of this, a group of us teachers were invited to dance during the Seniors’ Legacy Concert. This meant staying up after school to practice with my fellow teachers. The week-long Arts and Academic Week was held on the 3rd week of February with the Science Congress as one of its highlights. It was a whirlwind of activities until all I had left was one last week to teach speed, velocity and acceleration to the girls.

I have to say, it was a really busy quarter. But I know all of the above do not excuse me for my lack of journal entries. I swear, all of the entries are floating in my head and frankly, I even questioned the results of my time management self-test early in the term. So it is really quite hard for me to talk about what kind of behavior distance learners like me should acquire. Sure, the activities were already plotted in the school calendar. But I know that I could have done better in planning my activities and not spread myself too thin. Bottom line is, constant vigilance in turning in homework is a MUST for us distance learners.