My current study at MSc Programme at Nazarbayev University has given me a great opportunity to experience, enjoy and often challenge an effective combination of traditional and online learning. I have to admit that I have never done this type of learning and teaching before and I have discovered that both of these instructional approaches have important aspects in common. The main point for me is that I have the necessary support I need from the University professors and all of the dedicated staff in the classroom and online as well. Our Academic Advisors are willing to help us and navigate our academic career. Also, even being out of the university doors I have the access to university facilities and resources. However, the significant advantage of online courses is that I can take online classes wherever and whenever I want, what is a perfect match to my schedule as well as to the busy lifestyles of many other learners of the 21st century. Hereinafter, I would like to reflect briefly on how critical thinking can be taught through online discussions and how blogging can be used as an effective ‘web based communications tool’ (Williams & Jacobs, 2004, p. 232).
The main goal of any educational process and faculty is to provide learners with new and helpful skills and knowledge which they will be able to apply successfully in life. According to MacKnight (2000), one of the commonly chasing objectives of educational strategies is to contribute to learners’ analytical skills, intellectual growth and improve their critical thinking. These competencies will help them to comprehend, analyze, determine, qualify, and employ information or knowledge deduced from reasoning, considerations, experience, or feedback (MacKnight, 2000). In this case, “online communication offers the potential for collaboration as well as increased participation in the learning process, reflection, peer tutoring, monitoring of student learning as it is taking place, and extension of the classroom learning” (MacKnight, 2000, p. 39). That is exactly what I have experienced and faced with during the sessions at university. Working on different projects and tasks in cooperation with groupmates, meeting and discussing online, sharing ideas within the set groups sharpened our analytical skills and thinking and helped us to achieve better and higher results meeting all the deadlines and standards.
In terms of effective tools that can be used online in education sector Williams and Jacobs (2004) draw their attention and focus on ‘blogging’ – a “form of micro-publishing” (p. 232), which “has the capacity to engage people in collaborative activity, knowledge sharing, reflection and debate” Hiler (2003) as cited by Williams and Jacobs (2004, p. 232). From the research findings described in the article we can see that blogging is a good aid that can be used in addition to main subjects, as well as enrollment of students in this practice can help them to improve their knowledge and different skills. I am currently experiencing this exciting practice and, hopefully, I will benefit from it a lot as in these circumstances my level of knowledge, writing, reflection is under constant control of my advisors and professors.
Williams, J. & Jacobs, J. (2004). Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 20(2), 232-247. Retrieved from http://ajet.org.au/index.php/AJET/article/view/1361/731
MacKnight, C. (2000). Teaching critical thinking through online discussions. Educasive Quarterly, 4, 38-41. Retrieved from http://eac595b.pbworks.com/f/macknight+2000+questions.pdf