I confess that my motivations for teaching online are mostly external–we have a new degree program that offers online learning, and half of the students concentrate in my area. However, given that it’s now a “fact of life,” I find it an interesting challenge to try and transfer some of what I do well in the classroom into a totally different forum.
One thing that I bring to this process is that I already think in terms of setting learning objectives and taking clear steps to help students achieve them (much like in the article for M2, “Building your Syllabus”). I already think this is an important approach in a traditional classroom, and it is easy to see how important it will be in an online classroom, where I can’t simply narrate what each part of the course does as a part of regular face-to-face contact with students.
One concern I have is that some of the best moments of my teaching seem hard to reproduce in an online format. I even had a student say to me once, “I don’t see how you could do what you do online.” So that’s not very encouraging, is it? 🙂 But I hope that’s not the case. I think what may be most difficult is that in class discussions I try to help students become aware of a myriad of decisions that they make as interpreters of biblical texts, and to exercise better judgment with regard to those decisions. In the flow of discussion, with everyone present, it can be easy to find an example to use and unpack as a group. Online, I think I will have to be very intentional about the interpretive decisions I want to address, and set up modules in which those issues will naturally arise. I hope that, since I am working with advanced students, they will be able to take more responsibility for helping each other to see the decisions they are making and to be aware of the options available. One thing I will have to do to make that happen is to set out clear expectations about their responsibilities for posting in discussion forums, and explicitly make room for the different kinds of interactions that I want them to have.