In the now famous presentation at the 2008 TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference in Long Beach, California, Benjamin Zander, the music director of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, spoke of the insights he gained into what makes a conductor great. Zander noted that only after 20 years at the podium did he realize that the conductor is the only person in the orchestra who “doesn’t make a sound. He depends for his power on his ability to make other people powerful.” (Zander, 2009)
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Many faculty have questions about the relative merits of online courses versus the traditional face-to-face classroom experiences. Researchers also have an interest in the question, and a variety of studies have been conducted with the usual mixed results but overall accumulating evidence that online courses can provide rich learning experiences. But for many faculty, it is still an open and individual question. Many would like to have the opportunity Kathleen Dolan describes.
Online courses are increasingly being developed by a team of instructional designers, curriculum specialists, and instructional technologists. In the majority of cases, these courses feature standardized content such as a common syllabus and assignments, and reusable course modules and learning objects.
In an editorial published in the Journal of Geoscience Education, a geography faculty member offers a testimonial in favor of learner-centered teaching. “Through my 15 years of teaching Earth System Science, I have explored various ways of teaching it and have become convinced that the Learner-Centered Environment, that builds upon constructivist theory principles and fosters teaching practices that recognize the active roles students must play in their learning, is particularly suitable for Earth system science education.” (p. 208)
Sometimes content delivered in a traditional classroom setting can fall flat in an online course where your students don’t get to benefit of your voice inflections, gestures, etc. If you have material that you like to deliver face-to-face, but are concerned about presenting it in the online arena you can be creative when you include the material in your course and be assured that the content is delivered in a manner that you are comfortable with.
Do you have a fear of teaching an online course? Do you think that your personality will not shine through on the web? Has this stopped you from teaching online in the past? If you answered yes to one or all of these questions then you need to know that there is nothing to fear. Teaching online does not mean that you have to lose the personal touch with your students.
Last year I received a grant to support bringing guest scholars to my class. The idea was to find students with some expertise relevant to my courses and invite them to present in class, thereby giving the class a perspective on the material that I couldn’t provide. The grant enabled me to pay the guest scholars a stipend for their work. I had both the guest scholars and students complete questionnaires after these visits to class.
One of the common objections to group work is that bright, capable students are held back when they share group activities and grades with students of lesser ability. This is of concern to teachers and students. Often very good students strongly oppose group work. They worry that an ineffective group with weak or nonproductive members will compromise their grades. Many openly express the belief that they can do the activity, project, paper, or presentation better on their own and would prefer doing it that way.