I am motivated to teach “in the online classroom,” as Leah describes it, by several factors, some external and some internal. Several have mentioned in their posts their desire to keep up-to-date, to be able to use some of these resources/ module formats in their face-to-face courses, and to be able to reach a wider audience. Some have mentioned academic programs that are moving online, and they must move with their courses. These are all things that that are motivating me as well. Externally, there is a push to move more courses to the online classroom, particularly those pesky prerequisite courses that interested students may have difficulty finding and completing successfully (like mine). Offering these courses online means that we may have more control over the quality of instruction, which in turn could lead to better prepared, more successful students matriculating into the SON. This approach may also allow us to provide supplemental instruction to students who need it AFTER they’ve begun professional nursing coursework. From the internal viewpoint, the online classroom offers a huge array of novel teaching paradigms and resources that may not translate well to the traditional lecture-based class – for example, simulations, clinical images, teaching activities that seem more like video games. The online classroom may make it easier for students to establish themselves as self-motivated learners, which is something we want our students to be long after they leave our class. Students like the idea of having control over their learning environments, and the online classroom gives them flexibility in accessing and managing their interactions with the content. I think this is my biggest motivator: accessibility of the content! By that, I mean not only novel ways for students to access what you want them to learn (e-book vs. traditional bound texts, for example), but also novel resources that persuade them to engage more completely. At this point, I think it may be too early to say definitively how I’m expecting to have impact in the online classroom.
What makes me anxious about the online classroom? Gosh, I hardly know where to start. Most of my cohort have mentioned the things that make me anxious (and I do mean stomach-churningly, cold-sweating anxious….) like management of content, time management, the time required to develop and establish an online (or hybrid) course, the lack of technical savviness (is that a word?), the difficulty in developing meaningful relationships with students, and the giving up control of the course to the students. That sounds a bit like letting the lunatics run the asylum, and nobody wins there. Another big concern I have is assessing the learning that occurs in the online classroom. Novel resources and novel delivery mean that novel assessments will be required, and I worry about the savviness that will be required to make those happen smoothly. Management of the wide variety of online resources is my biggest worry. Even in my role as a student in this course, I’m finding it difficult to know where to look to find what I need, what’s due, what should be included, etc. The thought of managing this as the instructor really gives me chills, particularly when I think of how much more savvy my students are. Having said that, I think the key to managing the course content as well as the anxieties is to provide choice with limits. Just like the traditional classroom, assignments should have rubrics or some clearly defined boundaries within which students should be able to respond. Establishing clearly what you want to do ahead of time seems to be most important. I also really like the idea of having a set schedule where you take care of class material (and this applies to students and instructors). Just like your F2F course has a set meeting time / lab time, the online classroom can also have some restrictions on it. However, establishing these boundaries can also take a good bit of time – I’m remembering every time I have taught a new course (or the same course in a new place) and the few iterations that are required before finding that place where you can say with some authority what content students need to master and the strategies that are effective.
Accessibility! Engagement! Choice! What great arguments for online instruction, Ann. I particularly like the use for which you are considering online instruction: the control over preparedness, which means more successful students. I agree that we can be very inventive with the way in which we assess so that the assessment itself is instructional and motivating.
I had one thought in response to your concerns — I think we can solicit the feedback from (and enlist the help of?) students regarding what’s useful, helpful, confusing. We don’t have to be perfect; we communicate.
Ann – You express some wonderful motivations and also some very valid concerns in response to teaching online. What you pointed out in your last sentence is that the course may need to run once or several times before balance is achieved and your anxiety fades—and that is OK. All online courses require continuous improvement, and that may require us to stumble a little along the way and learn some lessons ourselves as teachers and designers. And as the name suggests, “continuous improvement” is ongoing. Aggarwal and Lynn (2012) in “Using Continuous Improvement to Enhance an Online Course” describe continuous improvement as “a moving target that requires constant updating.”
You, as an experienced teacher, no mater what format you’ve taught or teach in, already has a repository of strategies. Despite lists of “online teaching strategies,” many, many traditional teaching strategies you already use will make a solid foundation for any type of course you teach. Like you mentioned in your post, designing rubrics are a great tool. Also, when designing your course, include basic best practices—write discussion questions that promote critical thinking, engage your learners with questioning, and model expectations. I think it is likely that you already do these things. An analogy I use when working with faculty on designing courses is that building a course is like making a cake. You must have a cake before you start decorating it. Silly, but true. A strong foundation is key, now you’re ready to make enhancements.
In response to Peggy – yes! We don’t have to be perfect. And communication is a great way to navigate around the muddy waters. Thanks for your insightful comments, Peggy.
Aggarwal, A. K., & Lynn, S. A. (2012). “Using continuous improvement to enhance online courses.” Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Education, 10(1), 25-48. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-4609.2011.00331.x/full
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