Lost or left behind in online learning?

Last week I was facing what many of our online learners must face – a guilt trip about not devoting enough time to a course and  being overwhelmed by decisions. Do I try to catch it all up after being inattentive for a few weeks?  Do I try and contact someone, perhaps a buddy, and try to get the abridged version of what has passed me by? If everyone else is keeping up why am I so inadequate? Do I just pick up from here and ignore or let slide what has passed me by? Or do I just give up because I feel too far behind?

I know in the Foundations of Communities of Practice workshop in which I am a leader and coach, we have have been acutely aware of this kind of problem. How do we allow people easy reentry into the hub of the learning when they have been absent (physically or mentally)? This is particularly important when courses like Foundations and the FOC08 and CCK08 have a frequent phase changes that make returning your attentions like picking up a movie plot part way through the screening. We have never really found a satisfactory answer. How do other online programs deal with this?

The very first online learning course I took, in dream interpretation, I was spurred back into action when another member of the course emailed me to ask how I found the second assignment (which I had not done). It struck me then that both the physical gathering of face-to-face classes and the personal bonds keeps us on track. This whole self-managed learner thing is all fat and fine but the online  embodiment leaves us able to drop our priorities and let “real life” impinge. Learning face-to-face I would push back and say “No I cannot attend that meeting as I have a class that night”. But online, where we are snatching the time where and when we can, it is so easy to  procrastinate  – ah manyana!

What did I end up doing? After reflection I went back to the face-to-face equivalent and attended the Elluminate meeting last week. This really re-energised me and I felt that I could pick up the focus from here and carry on.  The synchronous meeting was one act in time that put me and my thinking in the centre of the current learning agenda. So this post is my way of sharing my lost and found path and perhaps normalizing this feeling for others. My advice if you feel as i did would be to join the next synchronous meeting or contact a buddy (I can be one) to find a way back in.

The next posts are my attempt, albeit still lagging by one week, to be back on track with the course learning trajectory.