What did you do on your summer(winter) vacation?

 During my school break I signed up for an  online graduate level course. I hadn’t taken an online  3 credit class for about 8 years and a lot has changed All of my online experiences have been good, however,  my
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During my school break I signed up for an online graduate level course. I hadn’t taken an online 3 credit class for about 8 years and a lot has changed! All of my online experiences have been good, however, my most recent class at University of Phoenix was exceptional!
You begin by signing up online, there is a online chat and phone connection you must make. I must admit that I was a little annoyed with extra step to actually speak to someone about my course selection, however, Jennifer was great and gave me some choices I had not considered, and reminded me to connect with my state Department of Education to be sure the class would meet the requirements for my certificate. If I had any questions, to be sure, they were anticipated and answered.There were phone calls and emails reminding me of the start date, a wonderful option since it is summer here in North America. University of Phoenix really has the personal touch in the forefront of their business plan.

Finally, the day arrived and our first assignment was to introduce ourselves, read the syllabus , agree to the university rules , learn how to navigate the website , get our online materials , whew I was exhausted at the end of my first two hours. The next morning, I awoke at 6 AM EDT, to start reading and joining some discussions, only to find out that I could not open any of the online text books. I called the tech support and Dave answered, a real person at 6 AM, and he calmly walked me through the Macintosh problem which auto-opened my ebook in Preview instead of Adobe Reader. Now that is service! He made sure I could open my ebooks and had access to all that I needed. By 6:20 AM and I was reading away. I downloaded my books , my articles, checked out the library articles and filled a folder on my laptop, in case I was without Internet service. After all, it is summer and you never know where you will be reading or if a thunderstorm will disconnect your power.

I even had time to enter into a discussion and found out that 3 out of the 13 folks were from Maine and another couple from New. England. There were other class members from Ohio and VA and MI. Our professor was from NJ and the mother of triplets! Some of us in class were on break, others were working, but, all participated 100%. This class was an asynchronous class. We participated in the class at our own pace and had deadlines to meet. We did not have any requirement to get on a phone call, video call or face to face meeting for this class.

During the 3 week time frame, our group read articles and our ebooks, answered prompts, and then discussed with each other the different perspectives we brought to the conversation. Our professor, gave a prompt, let us respond to the prompt, later added a new dimension to the conversation and the dialogues between the participants, formally known as students, drove the conversation. In this online class I truly felt the wisdom of the crowd throughout all the learning and conversations that were taking place.

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Our professor is very talented and knowledgeable about her subject area and about how to get a conversation going and sustaining the participation throughout. There were time frames for answering discussion questions, but that only mattered as we made sure to participate by the due date. However, since each participant had something to add to the conversation, we never closed the discussions! Consequently , although it was week 3 there were still comments being added to week one!
The readings were rigorous, the discussions were thought provoking, and the connections all of us made strengthened our learning about severe disabilities. Since each of us had to respond throughout the week we all had an opportunity to get feedback not only from our professor but also from each other. I must say I have learned from each individual , from the kindergarten and preschool teacher , the music teacher, and special educators from across the nation.

The university walls have been flattened. I participated in my class from home, from Quebec City one day and from a weekend trip to Vermont. Time management during a 3 week class is tricky, but I didn't have to drive to class, most of the time I attended class from 6 to 8 AM and I read whenever I had free time. I planned designated times to work on my 3 papers, 3 case studies, numerous discussion questions and one final project! I felt like I got more out of this class than my last, sit in a seat University class. I know that I heard the opinions of all my classmates throughout the class, not just in the final presentation.
After this evening I am going to miss my classmates, well that is until I take another class! Thanks to my classmates and professor for being part of my professional learning network, I learned a great deal.

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photo Todd Morris
http://flic.kr/p/7tToSr

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