Vision vs. Reality?

exciting-word-abstract-star-background-design-29536880Yes, it’s exciting to me: an online course will allow learners who cannot attend F2F courses to benefit from what we teach. Even if I design online learning modules (different from an entire course), this will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of F2F: it will free up time for more meaningful interactions and engagement with the self-paced learning occurring outside of class.

My thinking is that this online direction will allow students to self-pace, self-select, self-assess. With online instruction, learning can become more individualized and relevant to the learner. Similarly, in the hybrid model,  the learner’s time outside the F2F classroom is more efficient. Thus, perhaps with online instruction I would be able to monitor and track assessments to a greater extent to evaluate a student’s progress.

sticky-notes-to-do-list-everything-overwhelming-tasks-word-illustrate-how-amount-have-you-feeling-33564596My biggest concern, then, involves time management. I feel I would want to/ need to read every post, audio activity, assignment to evaluate and assess individual learner progress. In fact, the Van de Vord and Pogue (2012) article “Teaching Time Investment: Does Online Really Take More Time than Face-to-Face?” confirms that online instruction does indeed  require more time with assessing and evaluating learner progress. Further, from Anderson in the article “Teaching in an Online Learning Context” (2004),since timely feedback is essential to the effectiveness of the course/learning, I find it daunting to think how to keep up with this.

How will I address this?head-keyhole-think-outside-box-37537207

Perhaps by understanding the ‘culture’ of online teaching; that is, use of  self-assessments while still having the learner feel supported, understanding the mechanisms and techniques to engage and motivate learners online.

 And, one other challenge: balancing realistic parameters/limitations of course development and vision/ambition!



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    • Susan Hylen on July 2, 2014 at 3:07 pm
    • Reply

    Hi Peggy,
    Thanks for sharing your concerns. I agree that it seems daunting to try and read every post and keep up with the conversation! One conversation I had this week with colleagues, however, made me think that in some ways we might compare student asynchronous conversations to what happens in class when we break students into small groups. They don’t always have direct contact with the instructor, and we don’t hear everything that happens in every conversation. But we try to structure the conversations they have so they will be productive, even without our leaning over their shoulders. That helps me to think about what I’m using the discussion forums for as I design my class. (Though it may not relieve my anxiety about not knowing everything that’s going on!) 🙂

    1. Exactly, Susan! The structuring is the key — what is the learning objective of these small groups? How can we create prompts and activities to achieve the objective? For me in English Language Support, the goal is not to correct every mistake, but sometimes to enable the student to self monitor/self-correct, or simply to build fluency and become more comfortable in expressing him/herself in English.
      Thanks so much for your comment.

  1. Peggy, I share your concerns about time management. I am already finding our foundations course to be time intensive–but that is because it is so new and interesting. The essay we read on strategies made some suggestions that I will probably take–including setting up a specific time during the day to deal with course material. I also wonder if I need an email dedicated to this course I will be teaching so that everything doesn’t show up in my Emory email. That would mean the class communications would come “pre-sorted.”

    1. Hi Ed, these are the kinds of considerations that I continuously throw around. Just for the reason you mention I do not use Emory email as a means to share assignments. Other considerations: Do I email them every week to remind them of an assignment? or do I expect them to know to look in the “Assignments” folder? Do I send an email when an assignment is late? I’m finding that email creates a type of ‘intimate connection’ that is important to keep a student engaged.

    • Stephanie Parisi on July 4, 2014 at 1:53 pm
    • Reply

    Peggy – You provide excellent and well-supported points, but also bring up valid concerns. The research does show that online teaching does require more time overall than face-to-face courses. In “Teaching Online – A Time Comparison,” (2005) Cavanaugh’s study indicates that time spent teaching online increased with the number of students enrolled; the majority of this time was dedicated to instructor-student communications.

    There is no fix or magic answer to this, but there are certainly some ways to manage the workload when it comes to communications. Here are a few ideas:
    • Hold office hours – hold virtual office hours online so learners can ask you questions within an allocated time frame.
    • Video conferencing sessions – meet with learners online and address projects or questions to the group as opposed to multiple individuals.
    • Discussion forums – well-organized discussion forums can be very effective. Provide learners with forum guidelines and expectations or a discussion participation rubric. Student-to-student communications are a big part of any online course, and many times students will answer each other’s questions.

    These are all effective strategies, but overall, I think the best way to lessen the amount of time teaching online is to design an effective course—which may not happen the very first time! Sometimes the course needs to run several times before we find where the problem areas are and what areas of the course we need to tweak.

    Thanks again for your insightful post.


    Cavanaugh, J. (2005). “Teaching Online- A Time Comparison.” Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, VIII(1). State University of West Georgia.

  2. Peggy, Do you think your reference to self-directedness – self-pace, self-select, self-assess – is the wave of the future? Are those of us who have done classroom instruction so long having to go through the paradigm shift of giving up our external control to students’ internal control?


    1. You’ve pinpointed it exactly, I think. This is an entirely different creature, this online teaching. The focus is indeed on the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation of the learners. We (the F2F instructors) can no longer gauge by a brief glance or question whether a student is engaged or ‘gets it’. As Stephanie noted, the emphasis then is to create an effective *online* course — that different creature.

  3. Before I get to your main point, Peggy, I want to say I think a hybrid model is probably the best option for teaching. The lecture-type content is done outside of the classroom (and the students are held accountable for it in some way) and the more meaningful interaction/discussion/problem-solving can happen in class.That way you still have the human connection but also a lot less of the tuning-out by the students and a lot more class time devoted to important work.

    I think Stephanie’s suggestions above for ways of managing the amount of time needed to react/interact with students are excellent! I think it’s a great idea to video conference with a small group and go over their needs and concerns. That way you don’t have to answer the same question for every student (because I’m sure NOT every student is going to read every discussion post or listen to every VT reply or what have you) and can deal with multiple concerns at once in a more efficient manner (speaking rather than typing). Stephanie, thanks for these great tips!

    1. Hi Erin,
      Yes, I like the idea of Hybrid because it still allows me that precious F2F connection. Indeed, as Stephanie points out, the more time and knowledge/skill put into planning the online course, the better the outcome. So here we are learning what some of the elements are that must be included for an online course to be effective!

  4. Thanks, Erin! I am glad you found them helpful. And thank you for you comments on the hybrid model. Online teaching can be done in so many different ways.

  5. Nice work on your post, Peggy, I like the images to help guide our eyes and for expressing your main points! I too, like the hybrid/blended model quite a bit. No matter the format, it does take time and I course development time should NEVER be underestimated. I would likely give 6-12 months for a new course development process, especially if you were doing it by yourself. This would all be depending if you had some content to work around already.

    David asked a key question (pun intended?) – he asked: Do you think your reference to self-directedness – self-pace, self-select, self-assess – is the wave of the future? Are those of us who have done classroom instruction so long having to go through the paradigm shift of giving up our external control to students’ internal control?

    If I might take a moment with this question…and quickly state, the answer is yes. (We’ll be focusing on these concepts in M6, I do believe). We’re now talking about learning-centered – and the onerous is on the learner but I still believe the instructor does really well in offering choices. Choices of topics within range, choices of ways to deliver & demonstrate the final product and the learning acquisition that has truly occurred. Focus on the Learner by Involving them in the Process – this may even mean allowing them to grade themselves (with rubrics and caveats, of course). You’ll see that I’ve worked to develop some choices in this class, too – just a small taste of what you can begin to think about in your own curriculum.

    Let me know your thoughts!

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