Dr. Graham's notes related to this week's reading and essential question provided a great deal of food for thought, and combined with the texts, online resources, and links from my own research and shared by colleagues, this week was a big one as I consider how our course will come together and look when delivered to students. My own experiences coordinating and supporting online learning for students in my district have taught me that, yes, guides and supports for students are essential...but equally important is support for e-learning lab mentors and/or co-teachers at the site level. Alaska is such a diverse state, and the ways in which our credit recovery class will be used in schools across the state brings with it so many unknowns. We have no idea, at this point, who will be teaching the course, so we must ensure the design is crystal clear with plenty of explanation and support for the teacher. We have no idea who will be supporting the students at the site level, so we must ensure there are guides and help docs in place for those folks. Finally, we know students taking our course are in credit recovery situations, which automatically means they have been unsuccessful with the content or with expectations in previous courses, so they need tons of support if they are to be successful academically this time around.
So...there is the "support" piece, and then there is the "satisfaction" piece. Every instructor wants the learner to feel connected and engaged with her class. An online course is certainly no exception, yet the complexity of ensuring these feelings are far more complicated when the course designers may never know any of the students, and may never know the teacher instructing the course. Our readings this week and Lee's commentary introducing the week's topic emphasize the importance of training for online teachers. It is absolutely mind-boggling to me that up until very recently, there were no preparatory classes for teachers who wished to teach online. In fact, one short year ago when we were beginning a partnership with an online course provider, they were actively soliciting new online teachers due to the sudden increase in demand. The "training" required a couple of webinars and that was it. This semester has helped me to really get a handle on how very different the mindset must be for online teachers, and it definitely takes more than some webinar time. Lee noted in this week's intro that effective PD "utilizes a 3 week online experience, which requires teachers to do the activities that the students will do...and also explicitly teaches use of the tools required." Ensuring that teachers are prepared to facilitate a course is absolutely essential...and this is not something that comes naturally as a result of traditional f2f teaching in a classroom setting.
Thanks to a post-ASTE computer crash, almost a full day without a computer on Friday, and a weekend of sheer frustration with a new laptop with a mind of its own, I focused my limited online time this weekend on the blog posts of fellow ELA team members. My contributions to Aleta, Jon, Naomi, and Nicole focused on ideas and resources related to our course. I really enjoyed Helen's post this week and the research/resources she shared related to effective online instruction. After losing my response to her post THREE (count 'em, THREE) times, I gave up and will simply note in my reflection how much I appreciated her thinking and synthesis this week.
Some of the best reading I have done this week has been the result of searches for handbooks for online teachers...and there are a TON of them out there. As we continue to develop and refine our course, these resources will certainly become valuable guides.