The new name for the role of faculty in online learning, coined by Jennifer Mathes in an OLC Insights post truly got my attention.
The shift of the role of a teacher as the Sage on the Stage to the Guide on the Side fits well with digital teaching and learning, as students are expected to take a more active role in their learning. The same goes in the classroom where different pedagogical approaches are practiced, and student-centered learning is nothing new.
However, teaching online is not an easy task, and requires much more work ahead of time as well as during the courses than many would think. Teaching effectively requires more than being just a Guide on the Side. Thus, Jenifer Mathes coined the term to indicate to the scope of activities an online teacher is faced with.
She states: “I chose to describe the role as an Ace because we find, in the online or blended course, that a faculty member has to be the expert in many things (tech support, advisor, coach, subject matter, etc.) to their students. They are the first ones that students will go to when they run into an issue.”
This also reminds us of the importance of teacher support and resources.
Remember we are here to help in Miller Center 118!
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.
Almost 5 years ago, Elizabeth St. Germain summarized 5 most common pitfalls of course design when faculty teach online. This story does not get old as we still encounter similar problems with some online classes. You can read her summary if you click on the link above. Here, I will list the five things she described as the things you SHOULD NOT do in an online course:
- You should not Upload your course materials, then call it a day (to fix it, you can: Rework that hand-out on tedious lab procedures into a colorful, animated slideshow. Bring a historic context to life through links to period paintings, historic sites, or even contemporary Google street views).
- You should not Let the course management system drive your thinking (to fix it, you can: Start by thinking about the kinds of learning experiences you want to create rather than letting the CMS define a more limited view of putting your course online. Then, work with an instructional designer/lead course developer from our team to help you transfer this to D2L).
- You should not Insist on being the “sage on the stage” (to fix it: Your course should be a place where students come to participate in the connections that can be made between your subject and the outside world. Build these bridges into your online course materials, and become a facilitator of these important connections).
- You should not Expect your students to consume knowledge rather than create it (to fix it: Develop content that asks students to recall and apply what they have learned. In an online course, this could mean peppering your online content with quick test-your-comprehension questions or developing exercises that ask students to generate data, capture and upload photos of evidence, research connections to real-world conditions, or create explanatory slideshows).
- You should not Ignore the ways students learn from each other (to fix it, you can: Include assignments that require students to share ideas and resources, present topics to each other, and critique each other’s work. Use online communication tools and collaborative spaces to foster a class-wide web of supportive contact rather than settling into multiple parallel channels between you and each student).
By Paul Keyworth
LTTO (Learning to Teach Online) is “a free professional development resource designed to help teachers from any discipline, whether experienced in online teaching or not, to gain a working understanding of successful online teaching pedagogies that they can apply in their own unique teaching situations” (COFA.online Gateway, 2015). Currently, I am participating in a MOOC of the same name via Coursera, which is still accessible if you are interested. It is also available freely through iTunes.
Award Winning Resources
The project is the work of COFA Online, part of the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney, Australia, and is supported by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council Ltd. Co-creators, Simon McIntyre and Karin Watson from UNSW, have won the following awards for LTTO:
2012 MERLOT Award for Exemplary Online Learning Resources – MERLOT Classics (USA) Faculty Development Editorial Board Award - Learning to Teach Online McIntyre, S., Watson, K.
2011 Ascilite Innovation and Excellence Award Exemplary and research informed use of technologies for teaching and learning in tertiary education - Learning to Teach Online McIntyre, S., Watson, K.
Learning to Teach Online Episodes
So far, I have discovered a wealth of resources and pedagogical information relating to implementing and evaluating OERs (Open Educational Resources) and institutionally-supported technologies. In particular, you may find these LTTO Episodes to be a valuable resource as you plan your online or blended courses. The instructional videos are compiled into three categories: “Context, Planning and Teaching,” “Case Studies,” and “Technical Glossary“ (COFA.online Gateway, 2015).
Learning to teach online. (2015). Retrieved from http://online.cofa.unsw.edu.au/