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.
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Teaching to students’ strengths and interests can promote creative and critical thinking. But requesting creative responses often engenders the exact opposite of creativity. “Just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it.” “How many words does it need to be?” “What should I write about to get a good grade?” “I’m not creative.” Often these comments are accompanied with sighs, groans, or no responses at all (in the case of online students), indicating just how much students resist when asked to be creative. And these responses are even more prevalent in required and prerequisite courses. So how do we overcome the resistance and encourage creative ideas and thinking from our students?
Ongoing problems within a department can have profound consequences, including difficulty in recruiting and retaining faculty and students, loss of funding, and even program termination. While the health of a department cannot be the responsibility of a single person, the department chair plays a pivotal role in getting departments out of trouble and maintaining a healthy, positive direction.
As an online instructor, I can fulfill the minimum requirements of the university regarding interacting with students, or I can create a learning environment that facilitates student engagement in the classroom. Students enroll in online classes because of the need for scheduling flexibility, work-life-school balance, costs, and convenience. Although online learning holds many advantages, the potential drawbacks revolve around the lack of personal interaction between the instructor and student, as well as the student-to-student contact. Keeping students engaged in the course is a vital function of an effective instructor.
Teaching can be a daunting profession even for a seasoned veteran. For new faculty members, it can feel like a daily battle just to keep your head above water. So what are some ways that new teachers can ensure not only academic success for their students, but also maintain their own emotional and personal well-being? Below are six lessons learned by two new faculty members who have managed to keep their students learning and their sanity intact:
A bevy of research establishes that student-faculty relationships are important on a number of fronts. For example, they predict persistence and completion in college. They impact the amount of effort students make in courses. They affect the development of students’ academic self-concepts. The authors of this analysis write: “There is evidence in the literature to suggest that the way students feel about their relationship to the professor may play an even larger role than many faculty know, or—perhaps—care to admit.” (p. 41)
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.
In 1997 Ernest Boyer identified the concept of the Scholarship of Teaching. This was the first time that TEACHING had been identified as legitimate scholarship. Over time this idea has evolved into the movement called “SoTL” or the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning. Many of us are scholarly teachers; we read the literature, plan, assess, reflect, and revise. But what makes our teaching scholarship is very different. Lee Shulman (1999) clearly delineated the difference. To be scholarship, teaching must become public, be an object of critical review and evaluation by members of one’s community, and it must be built upon and developed.
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:
A small but growing number of faculty at major universities are experimenting with the inverted or flipped classroom. It’s an instructional model popularized by, among other influences, a Ted Talk by Khan Academy founder Salman Khan, which has received more than 2.5 million views. Institutions as varied as Duke University’s School of Medicine, Boston University’s College of Engineering, and the University of Washington School of Business have joined Clemson, Michigan State, the University of Texas, and many others in experimenting with changing from in-class lectures to video lectures and using class time to explore the challenging and more difficult aspects of course content.