Monday, March 21, 2016

Online Teaching is Still Teaching

I am facilitating a workshop for a group of my colleagues right now entitled "Introduction to Blended and Online Learning and Teaching." I have led this workshop five times previously--that seems like a lot when I write it down that way! The workshop is designed as an online course with a few face-to-face meetings; this is deliberate: I want my colleagues who may be teaching blended or online courses to have a sense of the uncertainly, the tentative nature, the fear that some online learners have getting started with a course. For some of the participants, this is the first time they have ever taken an online course before...not unlike some of the college students they teach.

So here's the nasty part: in the first module of the course, I deliberately chose BAD PEDAGOGY. I was nebulous about some of the requirements and expectations. I started with a soft open--a general "we will start class on Tuesday" announcement was all I gave them, with no explanation of what that really means. I had a (lengthy!) syllabus, and a (lengthy!) introductory video to give a rambling personal introduction and some expectations for their participation. I even contradicted myself at a few points between the different things I had posted about due dates and times. Oh, and the greatest faux pas of them all: "All of your work is due by midnight on Monday." (Begging the classic question: Wait...does that mean just after 11:59pm on Sunday night? Or just after 11:59pm on Monday night??)

As I say, this was all deliberate. Isn't that horrible? Call it tacit learning: I made it explicit later (I hope!) but I wanted them to have the experience of being unsure if they are "doing it right" as a learner.

Because here's the thing: online teaching is still teaching. We can't be sloppy or doing it half-way, just because we don't have a physical classroom. We still need to be careful, thoughtful, welcoming, encouraging, just as we would in a face-to-face first-day-of-class. And, perhaps even more-so in the online-only classroom environment: we need to be very, very clear about what we mean, and what we expect.

I hope the lesson was taken well by the participants. I promise that I'll make module 2 a better learning experience for them.

"WE" are learning together!
Image by David Mulder [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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