#11: Sync or Swim (Summer Shorts)

Welcome to Wired Ivy… Summer Shorts!

Dan here, with a suggestion for swimming in the ocean of online learning.

It’s summertime.  For my four-year old grandson that means roaming outdoors, digging in the garden, sleeping under the stars, and swimming.    But with the pandemic in full force, his Y has closed and his swim classes are canceled.  Still, he wants to learn to swim this summer.  So we pull on our shorts and head to the cove, where his Nana can teach him — not only is she an expert swimmer, but she has taken swimming lessons also.

Are you trying to lead your students to swim in the ocean of online learning, but you’ve never swum there?   Many faculty, especially those who trained in the previous century, have never taken an online course. It’s never too late to learn to swim… this might be just the time to enroll in an online course as a learner.

The course doesn’t have to be in your field. In fact, there’s a good argument to be made to wade in with a beginner’s mind.  But make it something you genuinely want to learn.  Fortunately, as a scholar and teacher, there is likely no end of things you want to learn about.   Do you want to improve your old college Italian so you can travel and actually be conversant?   Did you spend $1000 on a nice digital SLR camera, but haven’t really made the transition from film?

If you’re trying to develop or deliver online courses there are several good reasons to take one if you never have.

ONE — Many of us think we’re qualified in the classroom because we took so many classes in college.  But online learners have fundamentally different experiences than those who report to the classroom.  Logically it makes sense that taking an online course will help you understand the modality.

TWO — Students extract and use information from the environment you create differently than you do.  Being in a learner’s role will help you empathize with your students’ experience.   You and your students have different relationships with technology both generationally and because of your assigned roles.

THREE — In your mind, your course will always have clear navigation, because you built it the way your mind thinks.  You put everything in a logical place for you.   Having to sort out someone else’s navigation as a learner is a great reminder how important it is in building your course.

FOUR — Individuals moving into online learning in any role often ask — how are relationships and a sense of learning community developed?  It is worthwhile to see how it feels from the learner’s end.   It isn’t always done well but when it is, communications and activities are used to build working relationships with the other students as well as with the instructors.

FIVE — Moving to effective, active online learning may shift your role from explainer/lecturer to curator of themes, resources, and activities. Your job is how to best curate these elements to support student outcomes consistent with the course learning objectives.  There is a wide range of effective techniques out there.  Trying some of them will enable you to innovate your own lesson plans.


SIX — There are some poorly delivered, passive, unengaging designs out there.   At the very least you will learn what not to do.

The great news is there are a lot of options to try out.   Many of them are free.  You can try a short 4 session course or can take a full semester-long one.

Leading the pack are MOOCs — Massive Open Online Courses.   The scale of these dwarfs anything you’re doing.  For example EdX.org was started in 2012 by Harvard and MIT.  Today it offers 3000 courses from 145 institutions to 24 million learners.  We’ll put a list of other popular sites in the show notes.  Many MOOCs are self-paced but some are organized into cohorts so there is an opportunity for peer-learning and social interaction.   Most of the sites indicate how many hours each course takes.

If you want something closely analogous to your semester schedule, find one of interest that your employee benefits might pay for.   And don’t forget to consider community colleges in your state, which often have expertise in online education.

The point is — find one that interests you and has a mode of delivery you want to explore.  Just because you’ve been in a classroom your whole life, doesn’t mean you know what it’s like to take an online course. And remember, if you’re going to teach someone to swim, it’s best to get in the water.

We’re working this summer to put together an exciting Season 2.  Our theme will be Innovative Techniques.  Have you perfected a virtual dance studio?  Or how to create an active learning environment for 1000 distributed calculus students? 

We’d love to talk with you and share your expertise on Wired Ivy. et’s hear what you have to say!  Send us your questions, comments, and suggestions!  You can leave a voice message at speakpipe.com/wiredivy or send an email to kieran@wiredivy.org or dan@wiredivy.org, or help Wired Ivy grow by sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing us on your favorite podcast apps.


There are many resources for taking free or fee online courses. That includes universities but we’re going to assume Wired Ivy listeners know how to find those. Here’s a sampling of other options:

Coursera (https://www.coursera.org) is a collaborative effort by 200 universities and companies that offers MOOCs, certificates, degrees, and organizational training.

EdX (https://www.edx.org) is a consortium of 140 universities offering >2,500 MOOCs on a wide array of academic topics.

Skillshare (https://www.skillshare.com) offers free, fee, and subscription plans for online courses focused primarily on creative skills (design, photography), business, and personal development.

Udacity (https://www.udacity.com) is a for-profit organization offering MOOCs, primarily on subjects related to Business, Computing, and Programming.

Udemy (https://www.udemy.com) offers courses on a wide array of topics, including Business & Marketing, IT & Software, Teaching & Academics, Design, Health & Fitness, and Personal Development.

What would a warm weather music festival be without a little trippy ambiance? Wired Ivy Summer Shorts presents… Artemis!

Artemis – Sync or Swim (July 31, 2012)

Wired Ivy is wholly owned by Kieran Lindsey and Daniel Marcucci, and we are solely responsible for its content.   Views expressed in this podcast and affiliated media are those of Kieran, Dan, and our guests, and do not represent Virginia Tech or any other institution.  Our audio engineer is Star Path Images, and a license for our theme music, Breakfast with You, was purchased from SmartSound.

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