I really appreciated learning about distributed learning and learning modalities in class this week! It made me critically think about how education can be delivered outside of the traditional brick and mortar structure of schools! Admittedly, the brick and mortar school is system is what I know best and as a result it is what I feel most naturally comfortable in. I attended a Vancouver public schools for my elementary and secondary education and then moved to Victoria, where I attended UVic. I was fortunate enough to have no restrictions to accessing any of these schools, although in reflecting back on them they were not always set up to work the best for me.
Throughout my entire secondary and post-secondary undergraduate education, I was training and competing as an elite triathlete. In high school this meant I had very long days with early morning practices, followed by more training after school and into the evening as there was no system set up for me as missing class or obtaining the class through some other modality was not a possibility. As I moved into university, I often structured my class schedule as best I could around my training, but there was limited flexibility there and I spent a lot of time travelling to and from campus with all of my training gear and school gear in hand to pursue both parts of my life. Additionally, once I had reached University, my sport also required a fair amount of international travel to race and for training camps. In most cases, when presented with a letter from my national sport body professors were fairly willing to work around me missing classes here and there. However, despite the lecture notes being often posted to some extent online, I really felt that there was no replacement for me being in class and I avoided travelling as much as I could during the semester. The rigidity of the school schedule also lead me to take a few online classes through Thompson Rivers University that would transfer as credits to my UVic degree. I completed both of these courses during the summer while also in the height of my racing season. These courses were largely self-taught from the text book, included a few discussion forum posts and assignments but I really felt fairly anonymous in the whole experience. I did not enjoy learning in this way, however the alternative was that I miss all of my swim practices for the semester had I taken the course at UVic. As an elite triathlete, missing your swim practices isn’t really an option!
In learning about blended learning, flipped learning and multi-access learning which is perhaps is the most all in encompassing form of learning modalities, I realized that what I thought was best for me at the time could have been improved through access to a wider range of learning modalities. Much of my current education experience is a blend of synchronous and asynchronous online learning. I also have one day a week in which many of us are synchronously meeting face to face during our school observations and seminar course. Those days are by my far my favourite of the week! However, I can also see that there would be some advantage to a blended learning model for both myself and others. Especially when considering that many students are also balancing a variety of other life factors. For me, during my undergrad it was sport, but it equally could be family, work, mental health and variety of other variables. In this way I now recognize that online learning could actually be preferable in certain cases. Additionally it has an opportunity to include more people in education who might be limited in their ability to interact in a traditional face to face setting for a multitude of reasons. Although I would prefer to be meeting predominantly face to face for our classes in this program, I have also been surprised by the connections I have been able to make with my peers and professors over zoom and through group chats and emails. My personal learning networks which I interact with asynchronously are still enriching my education, extending my learning and connections beyond the classroom.
Furthermore, as we consider the current pandemic we are operating within, having a multi-access learning platform should be top priority for educators and administrators. Imagine a child is immunocompromised or lives with family who is immunocompromised, it is truly ethical to reopen schools without having a plan in place for these students to received equal education while not being present at school? I ask this question, not be overly critical but to place ourselves in the shoes of students who pandemic or not are currently excluded from our standard brick and mortar schools. Technology can be an incredible tool to increase inclusion in our classrooms!