Monday, November 21, 2011

Online PE - what a joke!

At least that's what I used to think. How could anyone get credit for an online PE course - the idea seemed a bit absurd. However, I'd have to say I've done a 180 degree turn on that. It appears that online PE can be more effective, more meaningful and more engaging for students.

Let's compare 2 situations - a PE student in a F2F class, and a student in an online course. In a F2F class the student might attend 3-4 PE classes in a week. For the most part the teacher will prepare the lesson and the student will participate. The level of student participation will vary greatly depending on the activity and the student. A typical 60 minute class will involve a certain amount of management time, instructional time, wait time, transition time and off-task activities. It will generally include the time taken to get into and out of their gym clothing. Actual time spent being active can be quite low.

For an online PE class students must plan and be responsible for carrying out their PE activities. They are able to select from a wide range of possibilities that suit their interests, fitness level, and location. They must log and have certified their hours of participation. The log would not include the time spent getting to the activity (unless it also involved activity such as biking).

In a F2F PE class, student commitment to participation can vary greatly. Some students become extremely active and participate fully. At the other end of the scale are the students who quickly become disillusioned with team sports; their inability to excel leads them to opt out rather than make a fool of themselves. There are a lot of students that feign sickness rather than go to PE. And many students drop PE as soon as they can.

Some students taking online PE are taking responsibility for their physical activity for the first time in their lives and that doesn't make it easy. Some students aren't even aware of what the possibilities are. Biking, swimming, skiing, hip-hop dance, trampoline - the list is only limited by their imagination AND their interests. We had one very anti-PE student become an excellent juggler. This requires incredible hand-eye coordination and a huge commitment of time. Another student discovered dance. Some students plan a workout routine.

Both F2F and online PE have issues; neither are perfect. Students aren't always motivated and don't participate in skill building activities. But when students are encouraged and expected to plan their own activities the chance for student engagement definitely goes up. And the skills are easily transferred into lifelong habits.

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