Self-reflection on the university online discussion

In this unit, I have experienced phenomenal change in my education and as a person. I feel that I have developed both socially, academically and even cognitively. This is evident in my personal relationships with friends, participation in class and even academic performance. I believe I am way much better than I was at the beginning of the unit. The unit and the experience gained have posed challenges and also developed me to a well-rounded person as I seek to become a professional in children behaviour management.
Strengths identified
One the areas in my life that has been strengthened greatly courtesy of the online discussions and the unit was a whole, is identifying with my class, knowing that we all are on the same level of study. I feel and I have been made to feel as an equal and valuable member of a team of learners. Every member including me has been offered a chance to contribute in various discussions touching on academic and non-academic matters throughout the unit. I have personally contributed significantly in these discussions which have made me better arguing constructively and supporting my arguments with relevant theory and sources (Catalano et al. 2004). The unit has provided ample challenges and situations to support constructive discussions among class members which have evidently encouraged constructive thinking in all students. Consequently, I have advanced academically, cognitively and socially to a more rounded and confident person notably different from my first year.
I have also improved in participation in class and online discussions. A number of studies have identified that classroom participation improves academic performance. A study by Flook, Rupetti and Ulman (2005) showed that increased social involvement in classroom social activities among students improved their grades. Based on this, I believe that my increased participation in class not only stimulates thinking on my part and other students but also strategically puts me up for better grades. Other than exam grades, I have made significant improvement in working with others, exploring issues and solving problems. At the moment, I can confidently say that I contributed more in class, I clarified all my posts better and answered all questions directed to me by my college mates in a more satisfactory manner.
Another major strength that I have gained through this unit is learning to be more organised. I have learned to manage my time better and schedule various tasks. During my first year, I had problems with keeping to my time schedule as I felt overwhelmed by some academic and extracurricular activities. However, all this has changed as I have learned to be in class in time, complete and submit my assignments in time and even slot some time for my friends and group discussions. I believe this will be very instrumental once in venture in to professional life after graduating.
Areas noted for improvement
I have observed that I need to have more confidence to always seek clarification where necessary. This is one issue that has probably hindered me from realising my full potential in learning. In the future, I will try my best to ask questions where I do not understand and either through questions in class or consulting the instructor outside class hours.
I should also embark on constructive critique of other peoples works. This allows me to understand various thought processes and learn in the process. This can be done in person or through online discussions in response to posts from other students. Garrison and Arbaugh (2007) discuss at length the role of online discussions on various platforms such as university education portals, blogs and social media and observe that they provide immense learning opportunities. In their paper, they discuss the community of inquiry framework developed by Garrison and colleagues. This framework notes for successful online learning requires three main forms of presence namely social, cognitive and teaching presence. Ordinarily, many students, I included, tend to view online discussions as a social activity whilst it also incorporates a cognitive element that assists cognitive development (Mills, Dyson & Cannon 2009). This I believe happens if the content is largely restricted to academic matters.
Working with other people
Participation was most carried out in online discussions. By participating in these discussions, I get a chance to critique others and be critiqued. O`Hare (2013) says such activities enable students to teach one another and learn from one another. While assessing other people`s work, it is more likely that I can identify subtle mistakes or issues that crop up in supporting various arguments than I would critiquing myself. Furthermore, opening myself up for critique by others enables me to see mistakes that I would have overlooked and present me with different arguments and perspectives on a given topic.
Conclusion
On the overall, I feel that this unit has made me a better person than I was at the beginning. It has brought challenges into my world academically and socially. Again, through this assignment, I have come to understand better the value of learner to learner interaction. The social interactions between students which is usually more relaxed than student-instructor relationship can be exploited for academic and developmental purposes. As such, I am glad that I took up this unit and also thankful to the instructor, the university and fellow students for their individual contributions to the unit worthwhile and my experience gainful.
References
Catalano, R, P. Haggerty, S. Oesterle, C. Fleming & D. Hawkins 2004 `The importance of
sbonding to school for healthy development: findings from the social development research group` Journal of School Health vol. 74, no. 7, pp. 252-261.
Flook, L, R. Repetti and J Ullman 2005 `Classroom social experiences as predictors of academic
performance` Developmental Psychology vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 319 – 327.
Garrison, D. & Arbaugh, J. (2007). Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review,
issues, and future directions. Internet and Higher Education 10 (2007) 157 – 172.
Mills, R, S. Dyson & D Cannon 2009 `Association of classroom participation and examination
performance in a first-year medical school course` Advances in Physiology Education vol. 33 no. 3, pp. 139-143.
O`Hare, M 2013. Peer Evaluation of Class Participation. Accessed on 10[th] Jan 2014 from, http://teaching.berkeley.edu/blog/peer-evaluation-class-participation