Transitioning to Online Teaching (Entry 01)

This entry is part of a series on my learning journal for participating in Fresno State’s “Introducing to Teaching Online using the QLT (Quality Learning and Teaching) Instrument.

Some key issues

I began my learning journey by recognizing and identifying some common key issues across multiple sources and speakers.

Some summaries

(responding to faculty input from “Take My Advice” published by Inside Higher Ed in 2017).

Tom Beaudoin

I value two pieces of advice from Beaudoin. On the one hand, we should seek to understand who has ownership of the online course material we generate. Is it ours? Is it the institutions? What happens if we leave the institution or teach at multiple institutions? This particularly concerns me because I already generate a lot of online content. I produce that content on the institution’s dime–kind of–as a part-timer, I’m technically only paid for contact hours and not for prep time or office hours. So I’m spending my own time generating content, but it is being hosted through Canvas or through the institution’s LMS. Who owns that data? I sure hope I do. That concern aside, I also value Beaudoin’s urge toward collaboration among colleagues. As faculty—even for me as part time, non-tenure-track faculty, it is indeed up to us to work together and make decisions as to what we want online education to be. Goldberg echoes this advice as well, urging both faculty and students to try and arrange local meetups from time to time.

Kalenda Eaton

From my own discipline, Eaton offers helpful advice on a key area of online instruction: making up for the non-verbal communication we “lose” going from f2f to online instruction. She encourages us to make frequent use of videos so students can get a sense of our personality and tonal inflections; ideally, this will breathe life into our written words, helping students to pick up on our own non-verbal queues. Building on that, I think we could ask students to submit their own videos or at least audio recordings using a tool like VoiceThread. Ofcourse, to her second point, I cannot agree more how valuable it is to get students engaged, incorporating material “in ways that require students to be active, rather than passive, learners.”

Leigh Ann Hall

Flipgrid looks super interesting. I’m definitely going to check it out. This looks like a great way to add faces and voices to online classes. Again this could potentially address the commonly-identified problem of missing out on the non-verbal communication that teachers need to pick up on.

Key issue: how to help manage team based learning when you’re not there in person to consult with the group and monitor group dynamics?

Key issue: formative assessment without reading body language/non-verbal communcation; instead, we need to pay close attention to responses and questions asked in discussion forums. I think it’s a good idea to open a general forum where students can ask general questions and content-specific questions, inviting students to answer each others questions and not just depend on me.

Key issue: adaptability! Online courses are set up on the front end and harder to adapt as the course progresses. However, I think we can use adaptive tools as a part of the course (InQuizitive by Norton, for example).

Personal experience and reflection

Formalist vs. Constructivist Pedagogy in Face-to-Face and Online Instruction

I have a variety of pedagogical mechanisms that are already well suited to online instruction, some of which grow from my personal development over time and experience, some of which grow from what my discipline values in teaching environments. For example, one of the key differences noted on the “Comparing face-to-face and online teaching” table is that in face-to-face instruction, teaching context is mostly “sage on the stage” and lecture-driven while in online classes, there’s less direct instruction; instead, the instructor frames discussion and activities. Making the move from “sage on the stage” style teaching to “framer” style teaching can pose a challenge for teachers who are used to “sage on the stage” style teaching; however, the latter is how I’ve been teaching face-to-face since I began teaching six years ago. So I’m definitely looking for ways to bring that framework into my online teaching. With this, I will continue to frame discussions and activities that are content-driven, reader-response-driven, and reflection-driven (just as this journal entry is inviting us to do now).

Course Adaptability Hindered Online

Another concern and challenge with online courses is the general loss of adaptability. While in a F2F context teachers can adapt course materials, content, assessment activities, etc. on the fly, there is less freedom to do this in an online format. I didn’t get any concrete reasons as to why exactly this is true, but my sense is that there is some truth-value to this challenge. I’ve only taught pure F2F and blended/hybrid courses (the latter of which solely by my own design), so I think I’m less familiar with this particular challenge. In a purely online context though, I imagine the challenge comes from the asynchronous nature of the learning environment. How do you adapt the course when students and teachers are working their way through asynchronously? What immediately comes to mind is to incorporate formative assessment activities in learning modules, the responses to which can inform how well students are engaging with, understanding, and making meaning from the course content. Depending on the responses from those assessment activities, instructors can record videos, provide demonstrative feedback, tweak the content of future modules, etc.

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