The concepts of open and distance learning have been around for a long time and, they have grown in popularity over the years thanks to technological advances. The long existence of the concepts has never overcome the prejudice that “Face-to-face education is always better and under all circumstances.” The coronavirus, which started in 2019 and affected the whole world, caused this prejudice to disappear perhaps forever. The Covid-19 virus, which has become a pandemic, has affected many sectors of the world countries, as well as the education sector. In most countries of the world, face-to-face education has been stopped, but the fact that education is an urgent reality suddenly gained great importance, a concept ignored for years: “ Open and distance learning ”. The word “open and distance learning” refers to the idea that all or much of the instruction is done by someone who is not in the same place as the student, as well as the fact that the mission seeks to provide more transparency and versatility in terms of entry, curriculum, and other aspects of structure. There are some crucial points that should be considered in Open and distance education such as Distance Language Teaching with Technology, The Role of Presence in the Online Environment, student engagement in online learning, Using Flipped classroom in online teaching. These concepts were examined and discussed in terms of our experience by me and my partner Muhammed Mücahit Altun.
Technology-mediated language teaching did not use to be such a common style in the past. This style has become more common with the Covid-19 period in Turkey. Over the years, technology had developed and as a result we see new learning tools in the field of language education. For example, when I was in primary school, our teachers used to give us print-based materials, but nowadays such materials have lost their value. Instead of these, there are now learning management tools that can address all types of learning at the same time. We have expressed ‘’ There are lots of learning management systems such as Edmodo, Quizlet, Kahoot or Padlet to foster the language learning process of the students. Since we are both university students and we have been working in language courses for years, we had the chance to experience these systems both as a teacher and as a student.
According to our determinations, learning management systems offered us synchronized and asynchronous learning and teaching opportunities. With the help of synchronous teaching, we encouraged the participants to have interaction between each other and exchange of knowledge and experience. As a teacher, we have had chance to provide instant feedback to the students. In addition to this, training has had happened on a fixed schedule. In our discussions, we stated that we experienced these benefits as a student with my partner. Especially in the “Open and Distance Learning” course, we use management systems in almost every course. When our teacher opens a topic on Padlet, we transfer our views to this platform and make discussions among ourselves. In addition, the asynchronous learning method is also a method I have experienced with my partner. In our discussions, we stated that we direct our students to asynchronous learning by using “Recorded class” and sending a question and waiting for an answer “methods. In addition, the videos we shot discussing the course topics in our “Open and Distance Learning” course can be an example of this method. Based on this situation, we concluded that asynchronous learning can be an adjunct and supporter of synchronous learning. We discussed Web 2.0 tools from the perspective of our experience. Among these tools, we discussed our realistic experiences, especially regarding blogs. When we were 2nd grade, we had ‘’Educational Technology’’ lesson which was a great opportunity for us since we had blogs to share try-out applications, ideas about Second-life language learning applications etc. We have concluded that blogs are great wat to learn new things or something to do with strategies and tactics so as to learn a language with steps. We also included assessments in our discussions. Assessments are vital in language education and we have been studying this term at university for years. We found that traditional examination methods were abandoned with distance education. We examined this issue in terms of our own experience. For instance, we are asked to have video recordings about the topics we covered in the lessons in order to be assessed. Considering that assessments made on paper are not real-world tasks, we emphasized that assessments such as video recording would be much more realistic evaluations. Although we talked about the benefits of technology-oriented distance education in general, we identified some of the disadvantages and talked about them. From our experience, we realized there are the drawback of not turning of cameras, reticence, not being able to talk and so on. Those things have huge effects on language learning. As students practice their knowledge through mutual communication in language learning, we found that these disadvantages reduce students’ motivation throughout the learning process. In conclusion, we have discussed how to foster distance -language learning context and we have pointed out some possible drawbacks in this process.
As we believe, providing presence is a challenging need for the teachers. One of the ideas we put forward in our discussions is that there are serious differences between face-to-face and online interaction. We talked about body language to illustrate this situation. We underlined that using body language in video conferences is more challenging than face-to-face training. We stated that teachers are trying to use emojis to overcome this difficulty. In the discussion, we examined the presence in terms of ‘’telepresence ‘’ and ‘’social presence ‘’. When we first learned these concepts, we commented that being together can mean being active in the online class like being participator and active listener. Teacher-student and student-student interaction is required for this condition to be met. After making this inference, we have once again understood how important learning management systems, which was our previous discussion topic. We realized that effective use of learning management systems is the most important element that creates teacher-student and student-student interaction. The conclusion we have reached after examining the learning management systems is that teachers should organize their materials in such a way that they can create the interactions we have mentioned. For these needs, learning management tools will definitely help teachers. Thanks to these tools, discussion groups can be established, collaborative work can be done, and a student-centered education can be provided.
We realized that learning management systems emerged thanks to the development of technology and reached a different result. While social presence can be achieved thanks to today’s internet-based tools, if such technologies were not available, students would probably be listening to lectures like listening to songs on the radio. If we examine our lessons, we realized that we could come across serious examples in terms of social existence. Interaction with students is cared by asking question and doing surveys about the lesson’s topic. In addition, pair works are preferred to create interacting environment. I believe we have reached an important conclusion with my partner by examining our lessons. The result we have obtained is that social existence can be named as the struggle for students to survive in the process of distance education. In order to exemplify this struggle, we discussed the issue of video lesson processing. Turning cam on might be crucial to have social presence. When the teacher only sees our profile picture, they cannot motivate us and themselves better and we cannot communicate effectively. After reaching this conclusion, we reviewed the “Videoconference” tools, which was our previous discussion topic, in order to look for solutions. By evaluating the videoconferences in terms of social presence, we realized that they had a serious connection with the previous discussion topic. The fact that students can use visual background and push-to-talk feature for microphone if they are not in a suitable environment during the lesson is a huge factor in the struggle for social existence. A videoconference has the potential to offer higher social presence than a discussion forum because participants can hear each other’s voices and see each other. Video conferencing tools offer advantages in terms of social presence as they provide synchronized training. In conclusion, teachers must revise their lesson plan and arrange them according to online context. While preparing drafts and materials, it should be planned to ensure the social presence of students and activities aimed at strengthening social existence should be preferred.
Student engagement was another discussion topic. While discussing this topic, we found serious links with the previous discussion topics. In our discussions, we mentioned that there are several types of interaction (such as student-student, teacher-teacher) that teachers should shape their course content to include these types of interaction. Besides teachers organizing their materials, Students’ willingness could be effective in terms of this interaction. students better realize that they should not just interact with the teacher but also with the students. Teacher can provide this via some activities. Another condition for behavioral and cognitive engagement is that the technological infrastructure of the classes should be sufficient. We have been working in language courses for years, but we have concluded that language courses are insufficient in this regard. In our discussions we discussed learning models that can increase engagement. We evaluated “Peer-based learning models” among them. We believe that the project we made for this lesson will be a good example. We experienced the benefits of having group discussions on topics and getting feedback on them. First, since these subjects are the subjects covered in the lessons, we prepared the lessons in an asynchronous way. In addition, we moved the learning environment outside of the online classroom environment and became more independent learners. While talking about engagement methods, we decided that it would be useful to examine fake engagement. We dealt with this issue as a teacher. We noticed that there are serious fake engagements over body behavior. Students sometimes pretend to listen to the lesson by putting their hands under their chin. Although the student seems to be watching you with his camera on, he may be dreaming. Through this example, we realized how relevant the topics “Engagement” and “Presence” are with each other. Better results can be obtained by considering these two issues together. In our discussions, we exemplified fake engagement as the teacher simply responding and returning to silence when the teacher asks the student. The aim of teachers should be to identify such fake engagements and to develop lesson plans that will encourage students. In our discussions, we defined the concept of fake engagement as the situation where the student is physically in the classroom but psychologically in another place. There is a piece of advice on fake engagement in the article we have read and discussed. According to this recommendation, the teacher should understand whether the student is doing fake engagement or not from the assessment studies he submitted. However, in this case the teacher will be too late to correct the fake engagement. The aim of the teacher should be to identify fake engagement in the learning process and to correct it as soon as possible. Even if the fake engagements detected at the end of the semester are corrected, the objectives of the lesson will not be achieved. In conclusion, the student engagement must be cared by teachers and they must act accordingly. Lesson plans must be arranged to reduce fake engagements.
The discussion of Using Flipped classroom in online teaching was a challenging one since it covers so much terminology. In our discussions, we discussed how we can improve education by implementing Bloom taxonomy. Rather than exposing students to information in the classroom, we decided that it would be much more interesting for students to apply them in the classroom by giving them simple tasks outside the classroom. In other words, we believe that taking individual tasks out of the classroom and devoting more time to collaborative tasks will also be true for 21st century skills. In our discussion, we talked about the importance of metacognition and how it can be applied. Using the story in the lesson, separating the students into groups in breakout rooms, and doing activities while discussing together could be some ways to apply metacognition. We examined this model in detail because it includes metacognition in the flipped classroom. We believe this model could be effective since it includes putting the students in breakout rooms to make them share and process the language. In addition, a flipped learning model can be applied by choosing a story and evaluating it with students in terms of abilities such as grammar, reading and writing. In our discussions, we also touched on the importance of e-tools in terms of flipped learning. Websites like geo-guess, isl-collective and breakingnewsinenglish could be preferred to provide flipped learning activities and tasks. Also, thanks to Game Based Teaching method, English language teachers can entertain students and motivate them. Possible problems should also be considered while creating flipped learning. Poor-video quality, inexperience of the teacher who wants to apply the model and workload before the class could be some possible drawbacks. Furthermore, in a flipped classroom, teachers entirely focus on student effort; if students do not arrive with completed tasks, there could be major issues with going to sessions. In addition, because students use traditional school methods, they cannot embrace this approach. Despite these disadvantages, the flipped style of classroom allows students to extend their viewpoints by exchanging thoughts, building trust, and developing the capacity to self-learn and meeting the students’ needs. The IRS lets students relieve uncertainty and effective contact with their friends. interacting with others. In conclusion, students may not be familiar with the flipped learning but still it could provide large benefits. When trying to take advantage of these benefits, possible problems should be considered, and teachers should act accordingly.
To sum up, Distance Language Teaching with Technology, The Role of Presence in the Online Environment, student engagement in online learning and Using Flipped classroom in online teaching were discussed in terms of open and distance learning. The terms were evaluated over English language education. While making evaluations, our teacher-student identity helped us seriously. We evaluated these concepts in terms of our experience and found a serious link between them. We have determined that while open and distance education has benefits, teachers and students may face serious disadvantages in this process. As we have stated before, lesson plans and materials should be reviewed according to these disadvantages. We realized that these disadvantages could be overcome by teachers ‘field knowledge and students’ volunteering. We discussed how to preserve and improve the benefits of open and distance education, which has suddenly become a part of our lives due to the pandemic. As a result, we have learned that the term open and distance learning is comprehensive and that its interpretation based on experience can produce more permanent results.
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