Embodiment and virtual relationships

1. The particular class I have been asked to teach on-line is a new DMin program in which our students will not be in residence here at Emory. They are practitioners who are working full-time while enrolled in this degree program. The on-line format enabled them to continue their education, so it feels like a privilege to support them in their hope to hone skills, enhance their knowledge, and learn from other professionals – their peers in the class – as well as the instructor. Because they will be able to contribute to the class from their context in Kansas City, Boston, rural south Georgia, or a suburban setting in the Midwest, our shared learning has the potential to be richer than when we share the same context.
2. I have yet to discover ways I will be effective. I have experience of accompanying and guiding students through real communities and in relationships with those on the margins when we’re sitting in the same room or walking the same streets, but how I can translate these skills and acquire new ones that work well on-line will be a discovery for me. More often than not my courses involve standing on the same street corner with my students listening to a local resident talk about the history of his or community, when that is a neighborhood in Atlanta or on the U.S-Mexico border. The tone of voice, the condition of the homes, the activity in the background, the signs of life and health, struggle and decline, are vital to the analysis and learning. That is, the context becomes the text, and to a great extent, must be shared. Photographing or video-taping people often changes their responses and always decreases the kind of observations (smells, sounds, sights, feelings/impressions, emerging relationships) that co-exist simultaneously and inform one another as they inform the students about the whole, complex reality of a situation.
3. I have several concerns, not the least of which is the lack of technical savvy. I also prefer to have my fingers in the dirt, in bread dough, or on my guitar than on a computer keyboard. I am also easily distracted. I have learned to manage those distractions when face-to-face with students, but find myself whirling around when in an on-line classroom, easily losing focus, reacting to technical glitches or noises off stage.


Motivation for Teaching Online

When I reflect on the readings and question what motivates me to teach online, I think there is a basic justice issue that comes to the forefront.  If my class is online, it could ultimately be offered to anyone regardless of location and social standing.  In the traditional classroom, especially at a place like Emory, we live in a place of privilege and at worse, a bubble of common experience. The online classroom could possibly open up that constraint not only for us teachers, but also for our students.  If successful, course content could be spread to new audiences untouched by our traditional classrooms.

My biggest concern is how emotional intelligence plays or doesn’t play in the virtual environment.  I use emotional intelligence to see how my students are reacting to the information I am presenting in my traditional classroom.  Without that use, I will need to find alternative ways of feedback.  I will need to do that without adding busy work, a common complaint, to the online students.  I am hoping this class will give me some ideas about how to address this issue.

Online teaching and classroom teaching—How do they compare?

In their essay, “Teaching Time Investment: Does Online Really Take More Time than Face-to-Face? “ (http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/rt/printerFriendly/1190/2212, accessed June 27, 2014), Rebecca Van de Vord and Korolyn Pogue discuss the difficulty of trying to determine whether online teaching is more or less time intensive than conventional classroom teaching. They admit that variables for such an analysis do not lend themselves to a simple accounting—how does one compare the time involved in composing an email versus a conversation after class? I would also suggest that the comparison resist a simple accounting because time as experienced is not simply a matter of duration—i.e. quantity. Time has a quality dimension to it. For example, time spent on interesting projects is different from time spent in boredom. Be that as it may, the assumption underneath the essay is this: both online teaching and classroom teaching aim for essentially the same goals—and therefore a determination of how much time is involved is a problem of efficiency or productivity. Period.

I have noticed that many of the other essays also fall into this sort of apologetic tack. Online teaching and learning is (or is not) as good as (or better than) classroom teaching and learning. Or online teaching is better at some aspects of learning/teaching, but not as good at others. All of these essays seem to assume that teaching/learning is an identifiable good that is somehow distinct from the “delivery” system.

But what if the “goods” of online learning and classroom learning are not the same, even though they may have a “family resemblance”?

I propose an analogy. We often use the category “the arts” to talk about such diverse creative projects as painting a picture and composing a symphony. We can even imagine some loose aesthetic principles that might apply to these two very different sorts of activities. And both, well done, promote the flourishing of humanity. And yet, it would not make much sense to ask: “Is composing a symphony more time consuming that painting a picture?” Nor would it make sense to ask, “Is impressionist music a better (or more productive or less productive) way of accomplishing impressionist art than an impressionist painting?”

blue_paisely_backgroundsIn short, what if we simply give up comparing online and classroom teaching and start trying to identity the goods of online teaching on their own, in terms of the goods internal to computer-assisted communication?


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!


Motivations and Concerns: Online Teaching

I am motivated to learn how to teach online in part because of the trends in online education reported by Allen and Seeman (2013) in Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States. They reported that online education is a strategic priority for almost 70% of academic institutions, increasingly students are taking online courses (32% have taken one course online), and more academic leaders believe that online learning outcomes are “just as good” or “better” (75%) than face-to-face.

But, I was concerned to read that academic leaders also report perceptions of more time and faculty effort involved in teaching online, and that faculty acceptance of online education has dropped (30%). The perception of quality in online education is improving and at the same time perception of online teaching workload is increasing. Which makes sense, more work is usually involved for higher quality, but faculty acceptance of online teaching is decreasing (30% in 2012, 33.5% in 2007 is highest).  I think this may indicate that faculty need expert instruction and ongoing supports (e.g., EFOT types of courses, boosters, and in-house instructional design and implementation assistance) to teach online effectively and efficiently.

To address this concern I plan to learn as much as possible from the EFOT course, experts and resources; work with the SN instructional designer; and take advantage of other supports and developmental opportunities on a regular basis. I also think it is important to communicate with other faculty and administration about what is involved in online education and what is needed to do it well.

I think I will be able to learn how to teach online effectively and efficiently by using expert resources, building on my years of experience in teaching, and using my skills in engaging students in new ways.  Lots of work, but worth it!

Optional M1 Reflection Post

Feel free to respond to any/all of these question prompts:

  • How are you feeling about EFOT in general?
  • How did the video tutorials reinforce the M1 activities? 
  • What did you think about Zaption, the interactive video software?
  • How was using VoiceThread to begin to connect with one another?
  • What are your thoughts about using VoiceThread in your classes?  In what ways would you use it? Why might it not work for your class?
  • Touch on anything else that is on your mind about our class!

Motivations and challenges for online teaching

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.

Hello EFOT Learners!

Welcome to the world of blogging. We will use Scholarblogs periodically throughout our course to reflect and synthesize theory and practice of online teaching and learning. This course is focused on your growth as an online learner, even though you’ll be eventually in the instructor role, if you aren’t already. I’ll do my very best to model this process for you, as I’ve been facilitating in the online environment for nine years. My biggest challenge will be containing my passion and not showing you too much at one time.  Ultimately, it is my goal to introduce you to the various platforms and technologies that will support your instructional goals.  You should know what is available to you and your learners.

I feel like I am quite aware of the stellar individuals that we have in this cohort and I am open to the opportunities to learn from you, and your long-standing experiences as “guides on the side” and “sages on the stage” – I am thankful that you are willing to go on this wild ride of learning with me.  

Until soon,




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