Can an online course facilitate a transpersonal experience?

I am excited.

I used to think no way, there is no way online learning environments can allow the same quality of interaction as face-to-face classrooms. It isn’t possible and I’m not going to try.

Of course this is not true, It’s just I had to learn some stuff.

I had to find a teaching philosophy that encouraged me to communicate authentically with students and invite them to do the same (I’m practicing with Watson’s Caring Science at the moment). And I had to learn how to use some online conferencing software that facilitates active learning in groups: allowing students to talk, message and share their screens with each other (zoom is good, I’m guessing there are others).

And my teaching got better and the students learned more and enjoyed the experience too.

But just now I had a transpersonal experience as an online learner — and in an asynchronous environment too. I posted on a MOOC discussion board that I was feeling a bit vulnerable (yes, my word of the week) about all the caring stuff I am getting myself into and I got this response from Linda:

“I agree, Rowena, that that can feel a vulnerable place but if you think of vulnerability as being ‘without a shell’, then it helps to understand that it’s easier for new ideas to penetrate when we aren’t wearing our ‘shells’ – and that makes for a more equal relationship between student and teacher” (1).

Linda is another student in the class. She has no inkling as to my snail thing. She just hit upon the perfect metaphor for me though. And she extended my idea – I hadn’t thought about how removing my shell makes me more open to new ideas.  And when I read Linda’s words I felt so excited, just like I would in a face-to-face classroom. I have expanded.

And see: this whole interaction supports Linda’s words! I am excited again!

I’m even thinking that in a face-to-face classroom, Linda and I may not have had this interaction… Linda may live across the world from me. And perhaps a face-to-face classroom may not have provided us with the time to think and compose a thoughtful response. Or maybe I would not have spoken up in a classroom in the first place.

And now I am wondering: Is it possible that an online learning environment can provide not just equivalent transpersonal caring spaces, but unique or even expanded ones?

If you have thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them.

photo of a slug aliding across a reflective surface. The slug is grey on top, becoming more salmon coloured at the bottom. It is a beautiful photo.
Slug. Wilfbuck. Some rights reserved. Flickr

Source

  1. Welch, Linda (17 May, 2018). [Reply to comment on theories of learning]. Retrieved from Futurelearn Course: Introduction to teaching and Learning in Higher Education Website. Linda kindly gave me permission to reproduce her comment here.