Online teaching has the potential to make education available to those who might otherwise not have access to it, and for this reason, I think it’s important for instructors to understand the best practices for teaching their discipline online. The liberal arts, in particular, are losing funding in favor of the STEM fields, and diversifying the ways that we can offer classes might help offset this trend. I’d like to feel comfortable teaching online, should the need arise.
When it comes to my own teaching, one thing working in my favor is my desire to be prepared and organized. By keeping the course organized and presenting the material in a transparent fashion, I think I am able to communicate expectations and overall course direction clearly, thereby minimizing student stress. This seems especially important in an online course that has fewer synchronous meetings than a traditional face-to-face course.
But I suppose I should be perfectly honest: the idea of teaching a philosophy course online is very intimidating. The texts we read can be very difficult, and a large portion of face-to-face class time is spent ensuring that students adequately comprehend the material they’ve read. Sometimes, comprehension requires a brief history lesson (to explain to them why that thinker is concerned with that particular issue) or connecting the text to the students’ own lives (perhaps by showing them how they have encountered the text’s central questions before). The remainder of the time is generally spent engaging with the text critically and learning how to appropriately analyze and critique it. As a result, philosophy courses tend to be heavily discussion-based, and it’s not always clear at the start of class time what issues students will need addressed.
For this reason, it would be very important in an online philosophy course to make sure that there’s opportunity for dialogue in between meetings, so that I would know how best to spend our time as a group. Discussion forums would be essential and might allow them to resolve some of their problems among themselves. Or, maybe students could complete a poll before the beginning of the synchronous class time to give a sense of where they’re struggling. I might also provide explanatory materials or other resources in advance. But I do worry that the wide variety of problems that can arise will mean that I’d have to reinvent the wheel with every single course, possibly completely on the fly.
Online teaching requires even more requirements than face-to-face classes. In an actual classroom, we as teachers can come up with spontaneous assignments and exercises, and we can then ask students to work on these in class, even if they are not graded; while students are working on the assignments, we can monitor them, and we may then call on individual students to share their responses. In the online classroom, such rather spontaneous lessons and interactions are rare. As online teachers we need to clearly outline the requirements, and we need to either have all students submit their work (such as responses to readings), or offer an incentive (extra credit for example) to students who do submit work. Students do the work on their own, outside from the teacher’s immediate supervision or purview (though on Blackboard, you can track views, for example); as teachers, we list/post requirements and then comment on and grade the students’ work. Whatever is not required, students won’t do. If readings are optional, most students will not do them. If posting comments or doing exercises is optional and not graded, most students won’t do it (one of the M1 articles mentioned this). The EFOT readings for this week and last week were optional. I’m guessing that most of us are pretty diligent and motivated, so all of us probably either read several of the M1 texts or at least skimmed most/all of them. I have to start thinking about my first online class in Summer 2017, and I know that some of these texts chosen by Leah will offer valuable advice, which is enough motivation to do a portion of the readings. Yet, our ESL students are primarily taking our classes b/c of the College’s GER, and unless extra credit is involved, they will not devote time to the “optional readings” or write an “optional blog post.” This insight means that we as teachers are required to include more requirements; for each exercise we come up with and for each text we find, we need to create a clear structure that involves and motivates every single student (when is it due, what do they submit, how will we comment). These are some preliminary thoughts on a particular aspect on both M1 and M2, and I am sure there are many additional or conflicting views on the topic, so feel free to leave your response here. Responding to this post is optional, however 🙂
(Addendum: I love Voice Thread and Adobe Connect. In the ESL Program, we were thinking that these would be a great tools not just for interactions with students, but also for interactions between us staff members while we are out of town.)
As I was pondering these questions regarding my motivation for teaching an online course this summer, the answer was really two fold. First, much like Trisha stated…our boss! She entrusted me with the task of developing a hybrid course for our adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner students this fall, which to me was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Mostly because I am not very adept at computers and navigating the online world, let alone developing a new course from scratch. So, I knew first and foremost that I was going to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and saturate myself with enough resources ie. this course and Leah! and hopefully gain some knowledge by osmosis or actually getting my head around these concepts! Second,is that I am not ignorant to think that if our program does not begin to move into the online world, we will not be able to compete with other programs that offer online options for the busy nursing student.
I am hoping to impact my students in the online world, much like I do in the traditional world by engaging, inspiring and then empowering them to go off and be safe medical providers. In the traditional setting, I believe it is much easier to do that because the interaction is face to face and leaves no room for interpretation of tone etc. and allows for immediate feedback. In the online world, I will need to address those challenges by engaging the students in different mediums of communication using Voicethreads and videos, Scholarblogs (which once I get the hang of it, will be great!) and diigo, which will allow them to build a bibliography of evidenced-based research within our field., in addition to having very timely feedback, along with weekly video conferences, which helps to stay connected to the student.
One of my biggest concerns teaching an online course is the students will understand the nuances of the technology, much better than myself. Therefore, I am trying to close the gap by actively engaging myself in this course and taking advantage of any other resources, so I can be successful. In addition, I am hoping that I have the time and understanding, while taking this course, to actually take a step back from deadlines, readings and assignments and begin to construct a usable product for the students this summer.
So my main reason for taking this class is to do with summer teaching. Many of our second language speaking students wish to take classes over the summer, especially writing classes to fulfill that requirement, but they also wish to go home to see family. Being so far away from home for many this is the only opportunity in the year to go home. This is a dilemma but one that could be solved by creating online versions of the classes we currently teach. It would also give us more flexibility as instructors.
The biggest issue for me is I am not the best with technology. In my 9 years at Emory I have certainly gained a lot of knowledge with the patience of such good folks as Leah. I am confident with Blackboard for example and can whip up a survey on survey monkey. Yesterday I learned how to do forms on Wufu…BUT it takes TIME!!!!! And when something goes wrong……it’s hard for me to fix it! Leah??????/ Help??????
As I previously posted I am nervous and a little overwhelmed. I didn’t get past line two of the article Teaching Time Investment (Van de Vord & Pogue, 2012) when I really started to sweat. No clear answer if online teaching saves time or is MORE WORK? What??? However, their research concluded with a somewhat gray answer of somethings take longer while others are more time effective. Ok. So… do the work and it will pay off. Right?
You asked what motivates me to teach online. First, my boss motivates me by telling me that is what is needed. Keeping my job – HUGE motivator! Second I do love technology and the virtual office. I am a single mom to small children and having the flexibility of when and where I can work is a HUGE motivator. I also think virtual meetings can offer insights in to people and their lives that you may not get to experience otherwise.
I believe I can be effective and engaging to the online student learners in several ways. I think nursing school can be somewhat routine and monotonous. The virtual world allows to break that up for students to work within their schedules (to some degree). It also allows for games, videos, quizzes and other multimedia learning experiences. One way I plan to use it is to have students do motivational interviewing, health histories & counseling sessions, record and post them. Then they will need to critique their own work and offer feedback for growth.
Time management will be one of my biggest challenges. So much front work has to be done before the semester starts and I am currently in the middle of this semester. I have recorded several webinars or voice over power points before and they take SO MUCH longer than if I were to give it live. I need to make a plan, be very organized and stay on time. The other thing I worry about is that I am not a very serious person – I make jokes, like to be silly and I need to be cautious about how I come across via the electronic world. One sentence is can be taken in a variety of ways because you lose the nuances of verbal communication. I think with practice I can find a middle ground of professional and approachable.
So as I said in the beginning – I guess I need to start putting in the work and it will all work out. Right?
So far so good. Sorta. Not going to lie – a little overwhelmed by the timing – all at once everything seems urgent. I appreciate how this course is laid out and how organized it is. I am lucky that my first semester at Emory I co-taught in a course in which we used VT weekly so I am comfortable with that platform. I do plan on using it this summer. What has me most worried is my course that I am building for the summer (which I found out yesterday has to go back through curriculum committee) is 5 credits. I have 15 hours of lecture, 30 hours of seminar and 180 hours of clinical. The clinical hours are handled. Handled – sounds like I am an assassin. I have 12 hours of face to face time with the students – so I have 33 hours that I have to do outside of that. That is daunting. Actually my head started hurting again just typing that. #goodtimes