Why healthy arguments should be part of teaching
Creating an eLearning controversy can seem counterintuitive if you’re trying to bring everyone together and improve remote collaboration. However, as Ronald Reagan once said, “Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to manage conflict through peaceful means.” Stirring up a little controlled controversy in your virtual classroom or VILT session isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can lead to transformative eLearning experiences and valuable life lessons. Here are 5 reasons why you might want to encourage disagreement among your online learning audience to spark healthy debate and dive deeper into the topic.
5 Reasons to Incite eLearning Controversy in Your Online Classroom
1. Allow students to explore the subject from a different perspective
Sometimes we humans can get stuck in our own minds and it’s challenging to see things from someone else’s perspective. Inciting controversy in eLearning forces people to step out of their comfort zone and evaluate topics or issues from different angles. For example, another student makes a valid point that challenges their assumptions and encourages them to delve deeper into a sub-topic or approach they had never considered. Maybe there’s an innovative way to solve a problem they hadn’t considered, or an interesting fact that sends them down the rabbit hole of lifelong learning (in the best possible way).
2. Build conflict resolution skills
It’s one thing to have a productive debate that allows everyone to dive into different points of view, and another to start an all-out war in your online course. This is where conflict resolution skills enter the mix. Students must be able to express themselves without offending others. More importantly, they need to know how to handle their emotions and keep them in check to prevent full-blown arguments. For example, another student may not agree with their point of view and make an offensive remark. Are they able to diffuse the situation and conduct a healthy dialogue with the person? In doing so, they not only build interpersonal skills, but help the other student evaluate their own behavior and actions. Why did the person who caused the offense think it was necessary to make that comment, and are there limiting beliefs that need to be explored?
3. Encourage emotional connection
Even a somewhat heated argument can make students feel more connected to the content and emotionally invested in the learning process. If they feel strongly about a point of view, they are more likely to engage in the conversation and take ownership of their opinions. For example, they must state their case for holding a certain theory over another. These more extreme (hopefully positive) emotions are then tied to the learning experience itself, making the subject practically unforgettable.
4. Grab and hold students’ attention
Most of us have taken courses that allowed us to yawn a few minutes into the first module. In many cases, it’s because we’ve sat on the sidelines instead of diving headfirst into the subject. Reading manuals or watching presentations has nothing on the productive arguments that make a topic relevant and meaningful. For example, ask a question that you know might be slightly divisive, or make a statement based on misinformation to stir up controversy about eLearning. Then invite your students to share their thoughts about the truths and misconceptions surrounding it.
5. Cultivate empathy and authenticity
Students who are able to evaluate a topic from all angles and see things from a different perspective are more likely to empathize with their peers. They also have the opportunity to be their authentic selves because you have created a learning environment where all opinions and ideas are valued. People may not agree with everything they say, but they still respect each other and don’t shy away from tactful challenges.
This could create controversy on a smaller and more localized scale. However, it can have a lasting impact on your audience’s learning if you provide them with a supportive space where everyone’s ideas and opinions are valued. You should have some ground rules to ensure your classroom debates run smoothly, such as setting a time limit for everyone to share their opinion to prevent one person from stealing the show. If you’re looking for an outsourcing partner to help you create content that engages your online learners, check out our list of the best custom eLearning content providers.