Online instructors are hired because they are judged as having the right combination of education, teaching experience, content expertise, and professional accomplishments. But once an instructor is in the classroom, these abilities and achievements can go only so far. There also must be a constant injection of personality.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Online Course Delivery and Instruction
Online courses at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division are facilitated in eCollege in an asynchronous format. Below are tips for being more efficient as an instructor and improving the student experience in an online forum.
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?”
Perspectives in Understanding Online Teaching and Learning Strategies for First-Year Generation Y Students
There is an overwhelming amount of literature that addresses strategies to develop and facilitate teaching and learning in the online classroom as a way to engage and retain first-year students. Students and faculty in the online classroom are faced with a unique situation: classes without a physical classroom. Professors are also faced with a unique situation: creating a unified class that is engaged and well informed on the structure of the course in order to create a total learning environment (Quitadamo and Brown 2001).
At its best, the discussion board can be the heart and soul of the online classroom. But it’s not always easy getting students to make the type of contributions you expect. The comments can be rather flat, not very insightful, and more often than not, it feels like some students just fill the minimum number of posts stipulated in your syllabus.
In order to effectively establish and maintain an active learning community, the instructor must establish his or her teaching persona and maintain it throughout the course, says Bill Phillips, an instructional designer at the University of Central Florida. Unlike in a face-to-face classroom, one’s persona in the online classroom needs to be deliberately incorporated into course design.
An instructor’s “digital” personality can influence student achievement, retention or completion, and satisfaction with courses, says Todd Conaway, an instructional designer at Yavapai College in Arizona. This is why he encourages instructors to infuse their personalities into their online courses. A growing number of tools and technologies can help.
Teaching any online class is time-consuming and can be a juggling act. The instructor must keep students engaged and motivated, adhere to a variety of deadlines, quickly answer all student emails and postings, react to in-class “emergencies,” stay on top of all school policies, and teach the subject in an easy-to-understand manner—while remaining a patient, upbeat, and constant presence through it all. This is no easy task, and while we each have developed approaches to help us, there is one often underused “tool” that online instructors can employ: the students in one’s course.
“One of the biggest barriers to online learning is our inability to respond in the moment, unless we happen to be on live chat or video, which is really rare in most of the online learning world,” says Rick Van Sant, associate professor of education at Ferris State University.
Learning research indicates that people learn better in the presence of some emotional connection—to the content or to other people. Creating this emotional connection is particularly challenging in the online classroom, where most communication is asynchronous and lacks many of the emotional cues of the face-to-face environment. Nevertheless, it is possible to do, with a learner-centered approach to teaching and a mastery of the technology that supports it, says Rick Van Sant, associate professor of education at Ferris State University.