teaching online courses
Tips and tricks for teaching in the online classroom
When looking to improve your online course, you may be tempted to do a complete redesign—start over and change nearly everything. Before you do that, consider an incremental approach that uses action research to continuously improve your course. This will enable you to make progress without discarding effective course elements or taking on the inordinate amount of work involved in a redesign.
The majority of us teach the way we were taught growing up (Southern Regional Education Board, 2009). This presents a challenge for online faculty, who most likely received their education in a traditional, brick and mortar school. Online instruction is much different from face-to-face instruction. Over the past nine years, I have discovered four basic elements that contribute to being an effective online teacher.
Encouraging faculty to participate in distance learning has been a concern since the very first days of online delivery methods, and probably before. A look through the Distance Education Report archives will show the evolving concerns about pedagogical quality, academic rigor, reputation, and other factors that faculty members have expressed concerns about.
As an instructional designer and online instructor at the Community College of Baltimore County Catonsville, Dionne Thorne has worked with many instructors as they develop their online courses. Based on this experience, she offers the following advice on the course design process:
When it comes to helping online students learn, few practices pack the pedagogical punch of quality online feedback. But common practices in face-to-face and online feedback can undercut the basic goal of feedback, which is to help students understand, and learn from, their missteps and mistakes. Learn how to upgrade your online feedback, making it more specific, timely, and effective—in less time than you might spend grading one paper.
I began my teaching career as a resident (classroom) instructor teaching Army officers about leadership. My teaching techniques are based on Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model (ELM) that involves the following steps: (1) Concrete Experience, (2) Publish and Process, (3) Generalize New Information, (4) Apply, and (5) Develop. ELM, which has worked very well for me in the classroom, directly emphasizes that adults learn when they:
- Discover for themselves
- Take responsibility for their learning
- Have a venue to receive experience and feedback
- Understand why the lesson is beneficial to their personal and/or professional lives.
Anyone who teaches online has run into problems within their courses. Some of these problems can be complicated and if not correctly resolved can do major damage to the online instructor’s reputation and opportunity for teaching future courses. This month’s column tackles the worst of these.
The design of your course pages can have a significant effect on the learning experience in your online course. Good design can draw students in, help them comprehend the information the first time they read it, and enable them to easily retrieve information, says Sheree Webb, an instructional designer at Tyler Junior College.
Developing an online course with student expectations in mind can enhance student engagement and promote development of self-motivated learning. This pointed and practical session will show you how to meet online students’ desires without sacrificing your standards.
Understanding learners’ experiences in the online classroom can help you improve your courses for current and future students and help build a strong learning community. Jill Schiefelbein, owner of Impromptu Guru, a company focused on helping individuals and groups improve communication in both face-to-face and online environments, recommends using a reciprocal feedback process to elicit this valuable information from students.