Week 2 of Bonk Online: What color is your learning parachute?

I don’t mean to be too snarky here, but this week’s topic in Curt Bonk’s “Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success” is “Addressing Diversity and Learning Styles.”  I have little patience for “learning styles,” and someone posted to the online discussion a pretty good video from someone named Daniel T. Willingham at UVa on why “Learning Styles Don’t Exist:”

I’m not sure it is as clear as Willingham suggests here– I don’t think that is as simple as “good teaching is good teaching” for the same reason that the claim “good writing is good writing” is clearly not true.  It depends on context and purpose and audience.  Having said that, Willingham makes a good point that some things require visual learning skills and others require auditory learning skills (just to use one dichotomy here), and that’s that.  Maybe some people are better at remembering images versus words, but that isn’t about a learning skill in the sense that you can’t use audio stimulus to teach about images and vice-versa.

The other thing that struck me about Bonk’s model of learning of read/reflect/display/do (R2D2– get it?  Ah yes, of course I appreciate a good Star Wars pun!) is this has nothing to do with online pedagogy per se.  In other words, to the extent that this model of learning is true (and it frankly borders on being just common sense to me), it’s also true for face to face learning, too.  So, what’s unique about this in the online context?

More interesting for me tonight is “5 Things I’ve Learned From MOOCs About How I Learn” from Audrey Watters.   Peers do matter– and the level of conversation in Bonk’s class varies widely, as you might expect with 1200 or so people participating– lectures blow, and teachers matter.  And last but far from least, there’s this:

5: The platform matters. Last week Lisa Lane wrote about her decision to “leave an open class,” namely Curt Bonk’s “Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success.” It’s not the professor or the material that prompted her decision, she writes.

“It’s the classroom. I wanted to attend to see the new CourseSites from Blackboard, which is being touted as Bb’s “open” LMS. Maybe it would be innovative! A new LMS. I’m always very interested in learning management systems, and what they can do.

“Well, it’s the same old Blackboard, with more white space, nicer fonts and some cool icons.”

All of my online teacher has been facilitated with some combination of eCollege and my own wordpress installations of different flavors, and lately, I’ve relied on wordpress for the “meat and potato” parts of the classes– posting stuff, hosting discussions, etc.– and used eCollege for the gradebook function.  So my experience with Blackboard is quite limited.  

That said, I can say with some authority that Blackboard really really blows.  Knowing what I know now, I cannot imagine who could possibly be happy about using this set-up– well, other than instructors who have been forced to use it and who don’t know anything different.  Maybe Bb is dramatically easier on the backend for IT people to administer or something, but other than that, I cannot for the life of me figure out why any institution would voluntarily choose it as a CMS/LMS platform.

Can anyone help me out and answer the why question on this one for me?

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