In Part I of this article, we wrote about the value in collaborating with peers. Here we conclude the piece by sharing with you the steps we followed in forming our group, while offering advice on how a similar approach could work on your campus.
Most of us have encountered students who struggle with a particular course objective or assignment. Finding innovative ways to help students break through these barriers to learning is a common challenge for all educators at any level. This problem may be exacerbated in the online classroom due to the geographically dispersed participants and asynchronous learning environment, however, it can be overcome.
We recently asked a group of teaching assistants, “How do you think today’s college classroom is different than when you were an undergraduate student? What is the most significant change you’ve noticed?”
The number one answer? Technology.
You’ve been assigned your first online class to teach and you feel like you’re ready. You’ve done your homework and learned the ins and outs of the institution’s course management system. You’ve structured your content in purposeful ways and developed thoughtful guiding questions to situate student learning and motivate them. When the class starts, however, you realize that while everything is technically functioning correctly, many of the students are not engaged. While you were looking forward to teaching online and interacting with students, the students are approaching your course as if it’s an independent study. This wasn’t what you anticipated when you agreed to teach online!
In online higher education, adjunct faculty members are an essential resource. These faculty members teach, research, perform service and outreach, and even oversee administrative aspects of higher education institutions (Doe, Barnes, Bowen, Gilkey, Smoak, Ryan, & Palmquist, 2011). Unfortunately, adjunct faculty members often feel isolated and set apart from the full-time faculty, administration, and staff. Dolan (2011) reported adjunct faculty members are generally disappointed with communication, recognition, and a lack of opportunity. One way to improve a sense of belonging is through the development of a strong professional learning community. A successful learning community is primarily focused on student learning, collaboration, and accountability for outcomes (DuFour, 2004).
Online instructors are being asked to accommodate an increasing number of students in their courses. The challenge is to manage the workload associated with these high-enrollment courses. Susan Fein, eLearning consultant/instructional designer at Washington State University, offered some advice on how to do this.
When people find out I am an online art history instructor, the most common reaction I get is “How does that work?” Most of the time, people assume that because art is such a visual outlet that somehow the online classroom is not the most appropriate place to teach art. I have to admit, when I was first approached about teaching art history online, I was skeptical as well. But as time and terms wear on, so too does my belief that teaching art asynchronously can be an effective, and dare I say it, better way to teach art history. Here’s why.
The presence of Teaching Assistants (TAs) in a college course benefits both instructor and students. An assistant’s responsibilities typically include grading, troubleshooting, and fielding student questions, and their role is evolving to meet the needs of the online classroom.
Communicating in an online environment, especially within the confines of an institution’s learning management system (LMS) and an academic budget, often poses a challenge to even the most well-intentioned instructors. Many times we find ourselves constrained not by our imaginations or abilities but by the technological tools we have at our disposal. Given the systems in which we work, how do we select the best technological tool—the best medium—to communicate a message? One framework for answering these questions is through the lens of Media Richness Theory (MRT).
Interaction has always been seen as a key component of an online course. Whether it is student-student or student-teacher interaction, the ability to discuss and exchange ideas has long been considered to be the piece that adds value to an online course, keeping it from becoming simply the posting of written course material on a web page, the digital equivalent of a correspondence course. In fact, many programs promote the highly interactive nature of their curriculum as evidence of its educational value.