F. Shroff

Adler School of Professional Psychology (CANADA)
Universities around the world are embracing online learning at a rapid pace. In this presentation I will discuss various aspects of online learning with specific application to the fields of community development, social justice and community psychology. Because most post-secondary institutions use asynchronous modes of online teaching, most of the presentation will focuson this category of technology-driven teaching. I will examine the many benefits of online learning for various learners, particularly those in rural areas, care providers and others. Best practices for online learning, with a focus on student engagement will also be included. Creating an online learning community helps students to feel a personal and emotional connection to the subject, their professor & their peers; this is especially important because of need for greater self-discipline since most of the work is completed by the student alone at the computer. Students in online educational settings tend to learn best when they feel a heightened sense of co-presence, when they are immersed in the learning experience and have opportunities for collaboration. Faculty members stimulate intellectual development by creating natural critical learning environments, generating provocative questions,reflecting on students’ ideas and using technology to create rich content. On the other hand, fostering critical thinking skills, particularly on topics related to social injustice--racism, imperialism, poverty and inequities--is challenging in any learning environment. Online learning environments heighten these challenges because students are not in the same location as the educator. Given that approximately 75% of communication is non-verbal, learning is limited to more 'flat' modes in online delivery methods. For politically charged subject matter, this lack of face to face communication can be a significant hurdle to effective learning. This presentation will thus delve into various androgogical dilemmas related to certain areas within social and behavioral sciences. Are distance education learning methodologies suited to all disciplines? The presentation will conclude with an economical analysis of the application of online learning technologies.