February 13

First Time Teaching Online?

Online Learning Consortium promotes their Online Teaching Certificate which covers a wide verity of topics. However, here is their brief overview of the basic skills instructors usually wonder about if they have not taught online:

  • Educational Technology: While the basics of email, discussion boards, and PowerPoint are necessary, you’ll also want to learn to use meeting software as well as have an understanding of learning management systems. Additionally, it can’t hurt to have a base understanding of how to troubleshoot computer issues, internet connectivity hiccups, and incidents of malware to keep your systems running smoothly.
  • Time Commitment: Think online teaching will take less time than teaching face-to-face? Not necessarily. You’ll find that more time is spent one-on-one with students via email and chat rooms, especially with asynchronous programs. And since many online courses are open to students across the globe, you may need to consider the time differences when scheduling synchronous sessions.
  • Student Engagement: Unless you are working in a blended learning environment, you may never meet students face-to-face. If that’s the case, take the time to cultivate an online presence so students and colleagues can get to know you. Also, plan to spend time responding to emails and discussion board posts.  Most institutions have policies surrounding faculty-student communication requirements.
February 8

Instructor Presence and Immediacy

Dwinnells (2017) gives great advice on how to keep up with your online students and give them the feeling that you are present, or as he called it: How to Keep from Going MIA in Your Online Course. Many researchers have confirmed that instructor presence or immediacy positively correlate with student satisfaction and success. I will list his suggestions with my comments below. Click here to view the full Faculty Focus post.

  1. Set times to “go to class.”  Advise your students (and do the same yourself) to check in every day for a few minutes and see if t here is a new discussion post or a question (for you), but actually “attend” the class for a half hour to an hour, two to three times a week.
  2. Find ways to personalize your course with your presence. Include media such as a welcome video or audio at the beginning of the course, or in Announcements, and consider video/audio feedback for some assignments. If you can’t do an audio/video try to post a picture of yourself and add some biographical information such as your hobbies and interests, besides your office hours and syllabus. This helps humanizing and personalizing you as an instructor, which ultimately creates a sense of presence and a feeling of community and safety for your students. Encourage them to do the same in a designated discussion forum.
  3. Seek opportunities to engage students in creative ways. Try to personalize feedback, mention your students’ names whenever you can.
  4. Use discussion boards wisely and often.
  5. Remember that online does not mean off-line: “One could have a beautifully designed online course, but with an off-line professor the learning experience will lack the depth, breadth, and richness of a true learning experience.”

Another point to consider is how nonverbal communication and gauging emotions is lost in online courses. There are ways to assess your student’s emotions and behavior in a fully online class.  Here is a short article on emotional presence and why it matters.