The 21st century is the age of communication. Never has society had so many different modes of communication. This is particularly evident in Education where the dissemination of information has such wide array of mediums through which information passes from teacher to student. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) have created a world where different races and nationalities can join together through online courses and participate in these courses together and share ideas, reach conclusions and ultimately create a true global community.
One would immediately think that differences in culture, language, and time zones as major hindrances in the global classroom. Though these issues may make teaching online courses more challenging, they are not as much a detriment to the communication cycle as the concept of the ‘online self’. Where essentially, the online class affords the course participant the ability to communicate in ways they may never have before.
The ‘true self’ is invisible in an all on-line course. The participant is only known through the text messages they send. This anonymity enables the student to develop abilities in the communication cycle that they may not possess in the actual world. Concerns of appearance, voice, and low self-confidence can be quickly overcome in the virtual realm. A student who sees themselves as struggling socially may find that the online course is a format where they are truly able to develop a voice, an image, the online self. It is the online course that may positively affect, and even change the true self.
Conversely, the online self may have an opposite affect for some; they may be confident in the real world but find that their online self is quite the opposite. Again, looks, and image are removed from the judgment of others, and removing these crutches may leave an individual feeling less than capable, lost in the heard, so to speak. It is this situation where the class moderator would be needed to cultivate a budding online presence. Left with only words to develop an image, with the physical concepts of looks, a firm hand shake and solid eye to eye contact removed, the online course may be an area where one might become lost. Feelings of insecurity, often hidden, may manifest in a participant in a course where the only form of communication is through text.
The online self should reflect the purist view into the mind of the student. However, online discourse may reveal hidden aspects of a participant’s true nature. Proper assimilation into an online course should reflect the true self. Many develop a new persona while online, hence, the online self. This transformation has both positive and negative consequences. Instead of seeing the keyboard, program and course as separate entities, the student must adjust and develop an online presence that sees the technology as a gateway and not a hindrance to participation. One should not have to create a separate entity while online, but understand that the online self should be an amplification of the true self, a mirror image. Changing one’s self when online can lead to confusion for some and may restrict online growth for others.