My motivation for online teaching is largely one of practicality. As noted in the Lin and Dyer (2012) as well as the Van de Vord and Pogue (2012) piece, online learning is expanding, and this is especially true for adult learners. Since most of my teaching is to professionals and academic adult learners, I need to be where my audience is. As I mentioned in the VT thread last week, I spent the fall taking a course in pedagogy vs. andragogy, and it really was fascinating. Many of the concepts in that class are applicable here. If you’ve not read any of his work, and have any interest in adult learning, I high recommend reading some of Lindeman’s (1944; 1945) work.
What I think has made and will hopefully continue to make, me successful at online teaching is being able to engage my students in a manner which bridges their academic and practical interest. I do this by expressing my passion for the subject, the practical value of the subject matter, and why they have a vested interest in engaging in the topic. I was very drawn to Fink’s (2003) taxonomy (though he does not like that word) in which the driver of a teacher is not simply to impart knowledge, but to create a desire in the students to continue learning about the topic after the course. If you’ve not read his book Creating Significant Learning Experiences, I recommend it.
This drive for purpose becomes even more important in the online environment which the students tends to be more self-motivated and self-guided. Fortunately for me, the subjects I teach professionally and in the classroom tend to be ones which lend themselves to this. Be it leadership, organizational change, organizational development, being able to show students how these are more complex social and psychological dynamics, but also ones which can greatly help them understand their workplace, relationships, and themselves. I truly believe that the role of a managers and leaders is a fiduciary one, and so I have a strong desire to impart these concepts on my students, and I think they pick up on that.
One of the areas of concern for me is not the time factor, which dominated the readings, but rather how to maintain this level of engagement and passion which one can establish more easily face-to-face. I think the VT posts we did helps some with this, but as I mentioned, I don’t think this is necessarily sustainable as a primary means of collaboration. In addition, the asynchronous nature removes some ability to effectively work together and synthesize new ideas. As an instructor I need to be much keener at picking up on queues of student engagement, be it the frequency or verbosity of their posts or other means. This is something I would really like to hear about from others.
While writing this, I starting thinking about the concept of an online classroom, but in a more permanent sense to reflect the brick-and-mortar classroom. I think it’s great that we have a once a week meeting to meet “face-to-face”(ish) J However, I’ve thought about extending this to having a permanent open A/V conference space where students can go at any time and meet up. Almost like a lounge in the dorm, they can hang out there while they work and other students may be there and collaboration may serendipitously occur.
Another challenge (I know you said one) has plagued every online class I’ve taken, and that is one of organization. I’m not sure if it is a reflection of the software quality, but in every class I’ve taken it’s been an effort to be aware of all the activities and assignments. Some classes have almost felt like a treasure hunt to make sure there isn’t some important note in some hidden corner of the virtual classroom.
Fink, L.D. (2003). Creating significant learning experiences: An integrated approach to designing college courses. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Lin H, Dyer K, Guo Y. (2012) Exploring online teaching: A three-year composite journal of concerns and strategies from online instructors. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration. 15(3).
Lindeman, E. C. (1945). The sociology of adult education. Journal of Educational Sociology, 19(1), 4-13.
Lindeman, E. C. (1944). New Needs for Adult Education. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 115.
Van de Vord R, Pogue K. (2012). Teaching time investment: Does online really take more time than face-to-face?. International Review of Research on Open And Distance Learning. 13(3). 132-146.