HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
advice to online instructors
Successfully transferring a face-to-face course to the online learning environment requires careful preparations that take into account differences between these two modalities.
“If you simply take your face-to-face class and put it online and teach it electronically, you will fail miserably,” says Paul S. Caron, director of education at Lewiston-Auburn College, whose first experience teaching online taught him some valuable lessons about how to provide students with an effective, supportive, and motivating learning experience.
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 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.
Which online instructor characteristics help students succeed? It’s a rather basic question that has not been adequately answered. We did a literature search to find if anybody had done any research from the students’ perspective on what constitutes a quality online instructor. There were perhaps 10 articles by professors speculating about what they thought defined quality online instruction, but nobody had asked students.
Resources—that amalgam of nearly anything and everything related to the subjects we teach and offered to our students as “extras”—give students a broader, deeper, and enhanced understanding of what they are being taught. Resources come in a variety of forms and often reflect our deep interest in our specialties. Sharing them in the online classroom gives students a better learning experience.
No matter how much we embrace and enjoy online teaching, the human frailties of mistakes, disappointment, anger, frustration, and oversights will come calling each time we teach a class. And when any of these happen we can respond with an emotional and unchecked action—never good—or we can accept that these negatives will always be part of our online teaching efforts and learn how to deal with them in a sensible, appropriate manner. What follows are the most common of the negative issues one will find when teaching online.
Years ago at a faculty meeting Larry Ragan, PhD, director of Faculty Development for Penn State’s World Campus, was trying to soft-sell the idea of performance expectations for online faculty. He didn’t want the discussion to be misinterpreted as an indictment against their teaching style, but he also saw an opportunity to share proven practices for improving the online teaching and learning experience. Finally a senior faculty member grew tired of the tip-toeing around the subject and said, “If you don’t tell us what is expected, how will we know what to do to succeed?”
One of the most useful elements of online courses is that they’re available anytime. But along with the timelessness, there is also an absence of time in many activities and pieces of content in the course that can that can lead to feelings of disconnectedness. How closely do we connect actual time to our student’s online experiences?