I don’t know how long this link will connect to this article, but it’s an interesting little read on compensating for classroom clues in an online environment.
Body language can say so much about how someone is reacting to the presented material. In a realspace environment, it allows us as teachers to modify our lessons in an effort to connect with our students, to help them form their connections so they can assimilate or accommodate the information as needed.
The article really seems to focus on the self-directed learner, who is not only removed from the teacher, but also the classroom environment, distracted by the noise and stress of normal life while trying to form the necessary connections for learning to occur. An online lesson cannot modify to bring this student back on task the same way a realspace teacher could.
The article does, however, suggest plausible alternatives requiring some form of input from the student. The problem is that you cannot be sure that the student has actually engaged with the material. I can think of two examples in the past year where I have been in online courses and played “click whatever seems reasonable” without reading a word of the accompanying material. In one case, if you didn’t give the right answer, the program would actually tell you to go back and select the (provided) correct answer.
Perhaps this is an interesting step toward trying to make realspace teachers replaceable by computers, the eternal threat that has been held over educators’ heads for decades now.