Had someone asked me a few short years ago what I would “require of the instructors who teach the course” I designed (e.g., a general English Language Arts course for f2f delivery), I would have been offended. I wouldn’t require anything special, as I would assume any teacher picking up my course outline had experienced teacher training that prepared her to deliver the content and instruction in a way that would result in meaningful learning for students. Ohhhh, how times have changed. Over the course of this semester, I have discovered how VERY different teaching online is from teaching in a traditional classroom. Yet, on the other hand, I have also come to understand how similar some elements of effective online instruction are to f2f instruction...yet, prior to this course, I would never have believed they would have mattered in an online classroom.
I just returned from ASTE, where about 75% of the sessions I attended had something to do with online instruction and/or blended instruction. Again and again, I heard teachers from some of Alaska’s largest districts and from some of our tiniest village schools talk about the importance of connections with students, communication, frequent interactions, high-quality engagement: qualities that are highly prized in traditional classroom settings that are also essential to online environments. Nearly all of the teachers I admired during ASTE presentations were self-taught and spent a great deal of time focusing on “lessons learned”...because they started out thinking online learning teaching and learning would be, for the most part, just like traditional classroom experiences. And they were wrong. They talked about things like communication, connecting students to the group, the challenges of engagement when students aren’t in the same place and/or haven’t met f2f, etc. Basically, they talked about this week’s readings.
This week’s texts, perhaps more than any others, felt SO practical. The UNB document on best practices in facilitating online courses (2012) reminded me that “to create a positive online teaching and learning environment the instructor needs to carefully pylan the course and maintain an online presence” so that students realize there is an “actual person” facilitating the course. The University of Wisconsin Stout site and link after link hammered it home, as well: The importance of online office hours, Q&A forums, specifications for private email subject lines, turn-around timelines, file naming protocols, flagging and prioritizing of emails ... all of the practical “stuff” that probably sounds intuitive, yet is foreign to the routines of a traditional classroom teacher. All of this was so valuable for me to read and review as I consider my own future as an online instructor and as I consider what must be part of online trainings my district may provide to teachers who take on e-learning instruction responsibilities.
In our online intro to the week, Lee spelled out so clearly the “three distinct skillsets” involved in delivering online instruction: 1) Creation, 2) Administration, and 3) Facilitation of online courses. I must admit that, prior to this course, I had never considered the complexity or truly distinct skillsets required for the design, development, and delivery of online learning experiences for students.
Moore and Kearsley (2012) note that “The characteristics of good teaching...have to be focused on every individual student” (p. 132) and not as a “class activity” ... which is completely different from what we do in traditional classrooms where we hope to differentiate, but in reality plan for the masses.
In response to my reading and this week’s essential question, I was on a quest to find the very best support materials for online instructors...and was quite overwhelmed by the number of “handbooks” for online and distance education instructors I encountered. The Distance Education Faculty Handbook published by Cabrillo College (CA) was one of my favorites because of the succinct, practical advice it doled out.
One of the greatest gifts the ELA group could give to AKLN and its teachers (and their students), in my opinion, is a succinct, clear, concise guide through our course – one that leads the teacher through the course content and design in a way that will make it easy for them to ensure success for students. Sounds simple, but I know this component may be as challenging as developing the content we hope the students will learn. Nevertheless, ensuring teacher success will undoubtedly be the key to students’ eventual success in the course.
Boettcher, J. (2013). Library of eCoaching Tips. Designing for Learning. Retrieved from: http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/tenbest.html
Boettcher, J. (2011). Ten best practices for teaching online: Quick guide for new online faculty. Designing for Learning. Retrieved from http://www.designingforlearning.info/services/writing/ecoach/inventory.htm
Cabrillo College. (2013). Distance Education Faculty Handbook. Cabrillo College Teaching and Learning Center. Retrieved from: www.cabrillo.edu/.../Cabrillo_DE_Faculty_Handbook5-16-13.pdf
Graham, L. (2014). Week seven: About the week. Online Learning and Teaching, Alaska MOOC. Retrieved 27 Feb 2014 from http://oltakdotorg.wordpress.com/weekly-readingsactivities/week-seven/
Moore, M., and Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
UNB. (25 April 2012). Facilitating online courses: Best practices. UNB Online. Retrieved from http://www.unb.ca/cel/_resources/pdf/online/facilitating-online-courses.pdf
University of Wisconsin Stout. (2012). Time management best practices for teaching online. University of Wisconsin Online Professional Development. Retrieved from http://www.uwstout.edu/soe/profdev/timemanagement.cfm