Aubrey Buster – M2 Motivations and Concerns in online teaching

My motivation to want to teach in an online classroom is threefold. First, as many have already noted, online teaching is an expanding sector of academia, and so I would like to be equipped to participate in that in a constructive way (and not just because the times dictate I have to!) Secondly, in my field of theological education, the student body in the US is decreasing, while the demand for quality theological training is increasing to the South and East. While some face to face interaction is valuable, I believe, particularly in the training of clergy, enabling students to complete the majority of a degree online increases the availability of this knowledge. Finally, I would like to be proactive in exploring the possibilities of online teaching as a young scholar, instead of being forced to “learn a new language” when my department decides to move classes from face to face to online platforms. I hope that this “pre-thought” will be beneficial to my future students.

 

As deNoyelles et al (2014) note, teaching presence is crucial to a successful online classroom experience. In my previous roles where a great deal of communication took place in asynchronous communication environments (online discussions; email; etc.), communication has generally been successful and maintained a consistent relationship between teacher and student. This was always balanced, however, by in person interaction, whether in the lecture hall or in the types of spontaneous interactions that can take place when you share a campus space. This translates into my area of concern, shared by many, that it is difficult to communicate the engagement with and excitement for the subject matter that proves so beneficial in my own teaching. Online classrooms require that the student generate the enthusiasm for the material themselves, whereas in the classroom, the shared focused space can serve to make the instructor’s enthusiasm contagious. This is also an issue with the required responses necessary to gauge student participation. In a classroom setting, you can ask a question if you have one! In online classrooms you are often required to continually respond in several ways. Some students benefit from this, while this translates for some into “busy work.”

 

One way that I am hoping to address the above concerns is through exposure to technologies that best mirror the in person learning experience. Spaces such as voice thread allow for video and audio communication, while adobe connect can mimic (in some cases, and barring the always present technological difficulties) a conversational space. Both of these are spaces where the instructor can model engagement and create the kind of infectious enthusiasm that should happen in a class! In relation to the second concern, several of our readings have referenced the importance of transparency in communicating the learning objectives associated with activities. This might help to reduce the student’s sense of the more frequent small assignments as “busy work.”

33 thoughts on “Aubrey Buster – M2 Motivations and Concerns in online teaching

  1. I appreciate that you brought up the concern around “busy work”. I have often thought that the online learning experience lends itself to a lot of assignments. I just wonder how do we make those assignments authentic and useful; yet, use the assignments to actually check that students are doing the work (readings, reflections) that the class requires? I agree that adobe connect did offer some ways to have those meaningful discussions and FaceTime; but, like you, my concern is that the quality of those discussions is greatly dependent on the quality of an internet connection…It just seems difficult to really “connect”, if you know what i mean…

    1. Aubrey,

      I share your concern regarding the loss of shared space and the enthusiasm generated by the instructor in F2F classrooms. In a previous comment, someone (I forgot who!) mentioned creating an online hangout space for students where they can meet up and “work” together or chat. I definitely think that could be useful, but I’m not sure if it would become one of those “busy work” items. But while I find myself agreeing with your concern, I’m also trying to guard against idealizing the F2F classroom. Disengaged students, boredom, busy work, absences, etc. happen in F2F classrooms too. I think you’re quite right about finding technologies that allow us to respond synchronously, to address those issues.

  2. Hello Adrianne,
    I appreciate your sentiments about the number of assignments expected in the online environment. There are many ways to “combat” creating a “busy work” online course by using a course design framework, by implementing instructional design principles and having solidly written learning objectives and outcomes. We’ll be exploring all of this throughout our course!

    In addition, we’ll also be covering electronic classroom assessment techniques in M4 which can aid in identifying gaps of knowledge/information and allows the learners to be more in touch/control of their learning through input and feedback and adaptations to the curricula, as possible.

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