Applying Transformative Learning Theory to faculty presence in a blended- environment by leveraging virtual classroom Using Adobe Connect
Armstrong, A. & Barranco-Morris, M.R. (2011). Applying Transformative Learning Theory to faculty presence in a blended- environment by leveraging virtual classroom Using Adobe Connect. Published in the conference proceedings for EduLearn11 held in Barcelona, Spain: July 4-6, 2011.
As educational innovators, our goal working at the Center for Educational Outreach and Innovation (CEO&I) at Teachers College Columbia University, was to determine ways to leverage and scale expert faculty presence and enhance student learning by conducting one course simultaneously in two uniquely different learning environments; one online and one traditional. The notion of achieving scale and using technology to enhance expert faculty presence is a disorienting concept for many faculties. One visiting professor expressed the belief that the professor’s presence would be seriously compromised. The paper addresses taken-for-granted assumptions about fixed truths about faculty persona and presence; the long held believe that faculty must be physically present in a traditional classroom setting.
To leverage faculty presence and scale the course to access an online cohort, two visiting professors were asked to teach a course simultaneously in a traditional classroom and an online synchronous classroom using Adobe Connect. This paper explores the visiting faculties lived experiences and how the process of transformative learning occurred as faculty beliefs transformed from the time of the initial agreement to participate in a pilot project to completion of the two-day course. Adult educators can be placed in the role of transformative learners (Cranton, 1994. p. xiii) .The questions asked in the study were: How did the visiting professor teach discussion in a traditional classroom environment? What was different in the new blended environment? Did his beliefs change in any way as a result of this new transformative learning experience?
The application of Transformative Learning Theory is evidenced in the way in which one visiting faculty professor was able to reflect on and express long held beliefs and then gauge the benefits and challenges associated with them in a new collaborative educative experience in a blended environment that incorporated high quality virtual classroom.
However, there was little research available on replicating real-time facilitator-led learning in more than one delivery format when this study was conducted. Little was known about designing a robust learning environment that supports the traditional onsite class while simultaneously delivering the content equally well over the worldwide web. Thus, this was another disorienting concept for faculty that believed that their presence and persona would be compromised in this virtual environment. This was evidenced when first presented with the proposal to develop the program for the worldwide web. One visiting faculty member requested time to reflect on this proposal because it was disorienting in several ways. In addition to the expressed belief that faculty persona and teacher presence were likely to be compromised in the virtual environment, the faculty expressed concerns about the personal reputation risk of an experiment with technology.
By engaging in critical reflection and discussion with the faculty over time, an accurate and new in-depth understanding of the experience unfolded. This study applies Transformative Learning Theory and a Community of Inquiry (CoI) framework to faculty presence in a blended learning environment. Critical reflection, questioning of underlying assumptions combined with peer collaboration with a colleague sharing in the new experience helped to reorient the faculty member’s perspective and fostered transformative learning.
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Keywords: Transformative learning, blended environment, adobe Connect, Virtual Classroom, Synchronous, and Simultaneous, Communities of Inquiry (CoI) Innovation, technology, research projects, etc.
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