Friday, June 29, 2012
Teaching and Learning Online series - Part 8
By Dr. Vanae E. Morris
Teaching online is hard! Ok, there, I said it!
Not only is online teaching hard but the modeling of online teaching is very similar to what we have experienced in face-to-face classes over the many years of instruction and that is, we do what we have experienced or observed!
Breaking that paradigm is the hard part! I have talked about (in this blog) what is considered to be the best practices of online teaching. However, should these best practices only apply to an online environment? I think not! As part of my role as a Higher Education Instructional Consultant, I go into the classrooms of instructors and observe their teaching. I take copious notes using a rubric that requests information about the behaviors of the instructor and the students. After the observation is complete, I take the rubric with my notes, and give suggestions to the instructors on ways that they could include more active learning strategies, classroom management techniques, questioning strategies, and many other suggestions for “best practices!” This conversation allows for the “why” of the teaching and helps support the “mechanics” of the notes that I took during the observation.
Over the last two semesters, there has been a distinct pattern in both mine and my colleague’s observations that precipitated the formulation of a template with similar feedback and eventually the creation of resource pages that we could refer our instructors to for further clarification. Most of our interactions the last two semesters has been with graduate students and teaching assistants, who are now modeling what they have observed in both the face-to-face and online environments over several years of taking classes from “seasoned” instructors, who are also modeling what they experienced and observed as students. One of the challenges that we have as instructional consultants in higher education is shifting that paradigm!
In this blog, I have discussed several best practices based on research, personal observations and experiences, and feedback from my colleagues within the instructional consulting community. All of the best practices can be utilized in a face-to-face classroom as well as in an online teaching and learning environment, it is just a matter a shifting the paradigm using different delivery methods, techniques, technology tools, and strategies. In my role, I encourage instructors to move from what has been modeled for years, to different strategies that take students from passively listening to actively engaging in the content!
The last best practice that I want to share is that of maintaining enthusiasm! Twelve to sixteen week semesters can sometimes seem like an eternity if we lose our enthusiasm for the content, our willingness to assist our students toward successful outcomes, and communicating that enthusiasm to our students. This enthusiasm (or lack of) is always evident when I visit a classroom, either face-to-face or online, so I like to give my instructors (and myself) this advice: stay organized, be an active presence in your classroom, communicate your enthusiasm frequently, and shift the paradigm to something new!