The dreaded online class

The dreaded online class

Online education has a long way to go. There are pockets of innovation and quality coursework being developed at institutions around the world, but it is still a quandary for many instructors and for good reason.

I grew up taking classes in classrooms. The first computer I used in school was an Apple IIe, the one with the green monochrome screen. This was in 1983. It was the only computer our school had. When I went to university I took classes in large lecture halls, watched PowerPoint files took two exams then a final and that was that. Computers as a learning tool started to be used in the early 90s and their use in education has exploded from there.

I always say that sometimes the best tool for a job is a pencil and paper, and I feel that the expectation to create perfectly rendered dynamic tutorials on every subject under the sun is a littler overboard.

Fast forward to 2013. Many teachers are being ‘encouraged’ to move their courses over to the online environment, but many times, due to lack of resources and support these courses contain recorded presentations and quizzes, and don’t allow for the key component in any learning experience, which is either hands on experience, or interaction with another human being.

If I teach a class in one classroom, and that class gets moved, I can easily adapt to the new room. It’s layout might be different, the technology present might be different, but the way in which I teach is quite similar. Moving the same class to an online environment is totally different. The LMS is NOTa new classroom, but in a different place. It requires a different kind of teaching and faculty need support in this endeavor, not so they can recreate the same class in the online environment, but to meet the same objectives meeting in a class that is wholly unfamiliar.

The best analogy I could come up with is this. Imagine you are teaching a course and you teach it successfully in the classroom. Students enjoy themselves, meet every objective seamlessly. Then you lose your sight AND hearing, or if you want to be a little more positive, you gain the ability to read minds and move objects with your mind. Now, you’re obviously not going to teach in the same way, are you?

The ways in which people interact with each other online vs in the classroom are very different, so the ways in which content is delivered and assessment is performed has to be different as well. How different you ask?

The difference in how a class is taught online, should be as great as the difference between venues.

Here’s a great introductory video all about online instruction planning taken from Learning to Teach Online, which won the 2012 MERLOT Award for Exemplary Online Learning Resources.

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