Maybe I can blame it on my second cup of coffee this morning, but I'm all fired up to take a crack at evaluating JT's recent post regarding student participation level (personal investment) in blogs, free-form (or self-directed) assignments and the like. I have completed a lot of years of formal "education", but until I took an online course, I never considered the personal investment (time, motivation) I needed to make in order to maximize the benefits of education.
In hind sight, my prior educational experiences were a form of memorization of what was "taught" in lectures and in assigned readings that I would repeat back in the from of papers and tests that assessed my memorization of the material (not a whole lot of personal investment in that process, if you ask me). Based on what I've heard from fellow students over the years (Will this be on the test? How long does our paper have to be?), I don't think I am alone in believing that - for most students anyway - success in education lies in regurgitating a sufficient amount of teacher-spoon-fed information. Believe me, that formula got me through many years of school!
When I entered my first online course, I quickly realized that this formula for education was not going to work. I was going to have to expend a lot more effort "pulling" my education vs. having someone "push" it all to me. Within this process, I realized what it meant to make a personal investment in my education (more time seeking out information sources, more time spent in critical thought and evaluation, etc.). Without sounding too corny, like any investment, the more you put in, the more you get out.
Therefore, I think JT was too hard on herself in saying "maybe it's just my approaches . . ." that impact learners receptiveness to blogs and other exercises. Rather, I think what is required is a fundamental shift in how we all view education and the required personal investment (especially in online education). In the end, a blog is just a tool to enable personal investment. Making the tool available does not ensure its use. Like the ol' saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink". If we are stuck in a mindset of "tell me what I need to know", we will never see the need or value of making the personal investment in self directed educational activities, such as creating a blog. Such activities require a lot more time, critical thought and evaluation than simply memorizing what is "taught" by the teacher.
I face this "tell me what I need to know" mindset every time I tell people I am embarking on an online Masters program. Without exception, I get the "how do you attend lectures?" and "are your tests open book?" type questions. This just reinforces for me that we are all geared to the idea that education is what is pushed to us during lectures and what we are tested on in exams. In explaining how online classes work, I usually circle back to some form of discussion of the personal investment aspects of the program (the self directed assignments and projects). However, in the end, most people just leave the conversation with a very confused look and little appreciation for this "new-fangled" approach to education.