A marked lack of institutional support had my pedagogy in peril,
but I was not ready to throw in the towel just yet. My primary
methods for keeping my pedagogy intact revolved around (1) moving
several course elements to a purely asynchronous methodology and (2)
improvising several technical solutions with resources either in my
personal possession or available for free on the internet.
Asynchronous learning is generally discussed within the context of distance learning. Stefan Hrastinski (2008) defined asynchronous learning as a style that is “commonly facilitated by media such as e-mail and discussion boards, supports work relations among learners and teachers, even when participants cannot be online at the same time.” The strength of asynchronous learning has always been its flexibility and increased level of cognitive participation.
My experience with an asynchronous learning model has come
primarily from my fully online classes, where students are often not
able to access the same materials, at the same time. Most coursework
completed over a distance learning platform is performed
At the time of my story, I had already experimented with moving other collaborative exercises (peer review, group writing projects, etc.) to an asynchronous model in order to facilitate interaction.
As a partial solution to some of my problems in this low-tech classroom, I moved several course elements to an asynchronous methodology. Students still attended class regularly, but almost all of the exercises, assignments, and tutorials requiring a computer were completed outside of class, asynchronously. Students still had the benefit of attending class, so the actual class acted more like a hybrid course.
Although there are some inherent limitations to asynchronous e-learning (Galusha, 1997), in the context of the low-tech classroom presented to me, it offered the best potential solution to my problems without completely scrapping my course. I feel that this methodology could be repeated under similiar circumstances.
Without a computer classroom, I could not have students experiment with RSS feeds, blogs, or other Web 2.0 technologies synchronously. Without the additional support of an LCD projector, it was nearly impossible to even demonstrate the technologies being used in real time. I literally had to moved many of the course exercises and assignments that required technology out of the classroom. All that remained were elements that could be managed with hardware (laptop, external speakers, etc.) that I could provide for myself.
Admittedly, without institutional support many of my solutions came directly from resources readily available to me, either in the form of software/hardware that I personally owned or freeware/open-source software that was easily obtainable. In the next section, I outline these solutions in detail.