Over the past year, we’ve covered a few inspiring stories from educators who are pioneering in the online learning space. Today, we speak to building information modelling (BIM) industry leader and online course creator Bruce Lee Xia Sheng about his journey into teaching and give you three online learning ‘equations’ to fuel your own journey.
From Industry to Education
Q: What drove you to be the educator that you are today? Where did your journey begin?
My journey as an educator, I would say that is unplanned. Things happened—I just did what I was passionate about: things that impact daily lives, things that impact the industry and things that impact the end user. I also like to ask a lot of questions. Now, it’s not that when you’re working in industry, you can’t ask questions. It’s more like in the industry, you have to work under tight timelines. Your boss may say, “don’t ask why, just do”.
So I think that’s why I really enjoy being an educator because I can always learn more. To teach, you need to learn; and the best way to learn is, actually, to teach. I got used to the teaching and learning process from a very young age because my mother was a primary school teacher and she conducted tuition classes in our house. Today, both of my younger sisters are teachers, too. I guess it just runs in the family.
Equation 1: Online Learning = Flexibility
Q: How has online learning impacted your life?
I really think that e-learning changed the way that I think about teaching and learning. It enables teachers and learners to have flexibility in terms of time and place. For example, you can always teach, even when you are sleeping.
A while back, I had this experience where I had to cover a lot of learning outcomes in a very short duration of time to a big group of students. The problem is that everyone learns at a different pace, so if you’re explaining something or giving attention to a particular student, you are actually sort of neglecting the whole class. Online learning becomes really handy in situations like these because the students can learn by themselves, at any time and place.
Equation 2: However, Online Learning ≠ Detachment
Q: What is the most important trait of an educator in order for them to excel in teaching online?
Empathy becomes a very important trait because there is a gap in terms of the time and also the distance between a teacher and their learners. You have to visualize how your students actually learn. Let’s say a student is doing an activity. How does he or she feel? Is it too easy or too difficult?
As educators who wish to teach online, we have to empathise and reflect. After you have created the teaching learning content, you review it and then you read it and then you watch it. You listen to it. Reflect on how you actually feel, and most surely that will be how your learners feel at the end.
Equation 3: Online Learning > Bruce Lee
Q: What is your favourite thing about teaching online?
One of my favourite things about online learning is: You can actually do more with less. One joke that I always tell my students is ‘If you ask me to repeat it, I’ll repeat it—but if you ask me to repeat it a second time, please don’t. I’m not astro on demand’.
That’s how it feels when you have instructional videos on YouTube which have more than 600,000 views. That means the students are actually playing it over and over again, and you start to realise that you’re doing much, much more, with less.
Q: What would you say to other educators out there who are still unsure about this online learning thing? You know, those who are still skeptical about MOOCs.
Do it. Because if you don’t do it, others will. So my philosophy in terms of e-learning or transformational education is that if you don’t replace yourself with a digital self, others will replace you. So for me, it is better for you to replace yourself—rather than being replaced by others.
The second piece of advice would be to understand how rapidly things are changing. The future requires us to learn. Even though we are educators, we have to always learn new ways, new technologies, and new processes to teach and be better educators.
Bruce Lee Xia Sheng is the co-founder and Building Information Modelling consultant for COLOURBIM. He is an Autodesk Certified BIM professional and Certified Revit Architecture professional who teaches, conducts academic research and engages in industrial work.
The Educator Profile series is a collection of stories, tips and reflections from trailblazers who are using technology to enhance their students’ learning experiences. Have a story to share? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org!