Teaching Online

I once believed teaching online symbolized the dark side of the academy. But I know it is inevitable. So the question is how to teach well online and how to integrate online teaching in traditional classroom teaching. I have taught in three different kinds of environments: 100% online, 100% classroom, and hybrid.

Regardless of the environment, there are key ingredients to a successful class. The first is lecture. Students have a lot to offer, but instructors do too. There also is a reason why instructors stand in front of the classroom, namely their experiences, knowledge, wisdom, etc. Therefore, I strive to offer high-quality lectures to my students even if the class takes place online. Using software programs such as Camtasia or Adobe Presenter, I upload lectures online for students to listen to.

Second is production. Online environments offer opportunities for content production to students with a few entry barriers. Producing and posting a video clip online is much easier online than offline. Websites have many loci for students to publish their work whereas traditional publication opportunities are limited even for scholars. Students are encouraged and sometimes required to participate in the digital culture not just as consumers but also as producers.

Third is discussion. There is little new about the importance of discussions in learning. My students frequently comment in their course evaluation that they appreciate my openness to various ideas which allows them to feel comfortable about voicing their thoughts. These discussions happen in classrooms if possible. Or they may happen on the course website. An increasing number of discussions in my online classes are taking place on social media websites including twitter. Students respond well and frequently on these websites and are able to have a continuous discussion unrestrictured to when a class may happen.

Fourth is indivicual contacts. Such an interaction may happen face-to-face, via e-mail, or through Adobe Connect. Regardless of the means, I am available to a student on a one-on-one basis and am able to offer advice for the particularly student. Evidently, such an advising session is useful when a student is struggling with an assignment or in a class. But it is also useful when a student wishes to advance his or her career using what my couse can offer. In some ways, it is similar to conducting an independent study. I am able to suggest ideas based on the student’s future career plans, interests, or needs. I had a student who was enrolled in my African American history class who was interested in the HIV/AIDS issues in South Africa. She later took an independent study with me and presented her paper at a national academic conference. A group of seniors in the Department of Engineering sought my advice on technical writing. Although lectures may follow the one-size-fits-all idea, a course can easily be tailors to individual interests through close contacts with students.

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