One thing that came up this past week is defining "experiential learning". Susan mentioned how our role as facilitators is to,
... design authentic activities in a way that students feel safe and supported, but have learning outcomes for students.In the online environment thinking through the design part is something I find really challenging - but in a good way especially with a really good interactive platform. In the past I think we've (or at least I've) focused on designing content but was less focused on designing interaction. Up until the last three years, most of the online learning platforms I've used had few tools for engaging participants. They mostly supported interaction between a) participant and the content or b) between participants and presenter/instructor. What I've come to appreciate as a result of working with a solid participation-based platform (Elluminate) is this ability to design for social learning because we are designing for something more than a or b -- we are designing for c) interaction between participants too.
So I think what Susan has described fits with this notion of act, reflect and plan rather than plan, act and reflect (although she plans --as in sets up the course -- for us to act, reflect and plan). Not only does this put the responsibility to learn in my hands but the action also provides a fertile experience for hands-on learning and developing strong and supportive relationships between us as participants. All the while Susan and others are providing a safety net so that when we reach our limits we have a strong presence for helping us stretch just a tad further. I aspire to do this as well as Susan does.
I'm reminded of a piece I wrote about learning edges taken from The Lord of the Rings movie (first one) where Sam and Frodo (Hobbits) are leaving the Shire and Sam stops short at the edge of a field and says to Frodo, "This is it. If I take one more step it will be the fartherest from home I've ever been". In this course I imagine I'll be taking a number of steps into places I've never been and appreciate that others will be doing the same with each of us supporting each other as we make the journey.