Pushing Through The Perils of Teaching Online

Interesting post (and discussion thread) in the Chronicle's ProfHacker blog about teaching online. Many, many things that went wrong and could have been done better. Plus, as an instructional designer, I wonder what type of support - planning, technical, etc., the writer had going in... Thoughts? chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/pushing-through-the-perils-of-teachi...

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Comment by John Kahler on August 29, 2012 at 1:20pm
Kirby, you're spot on. Faculty I've worked with who were transferring a face to face course to online often had to confront the reality that a thorough review of the course and objectives was necessary - teaching online meant much more than fitting the course into the technology. I would often be able to compare the way they could sometimes "fake" a class the way they could call on the Spirit to help them when I'll prepared for a sermon. There's no faking it when you're working online, technology doesn't allow it, the type of interaction doesn't allow it, and you can't immediately see you've lost the class when they have expectations that are not being met - often because the objectives are unclear or, worse, never even presented.

Thanks for your post!
Comment by Kirby Francis on August 29, 2012 at 12:53pm

It strikes me that he made the capital mistake of not starting with learning objectives.  I know that sounds like petty theory, but it absolutely changes the way everything works online.  I don't see him referring to his learning objectives in the article at all.

An example of this from a recent church history class we designed:  The instructor normally takes residential students on a tour of a local facility with obvious importance to 20th C. American church history.  They love it, love his insights, and really gain from the experience.  Replicating this online - without consideration of objectives - would have students reading or viewing this religious site's webpage, and writing some kind of dry abstract of what they saw.  Pointless busy-work.  In reality, the objective behind this assignment was to have students experience living history in their community - to understand how local church history has shaped the religious understandings of their own families and neighbours.  The result?  An assignment for students (scattered all over the US) to visit a local religious site of historical signficance (ie. an older church in their community).  By conducting research into the site, and interviewing older members or leaders (in the case of churches), students fulfill the objective for the original assignment.

Online teaching is hard, partly because we think the novelty of teaching comes from the tech that we use.  It doesn't.  The novelty of the teaching comes from taking a fresh look at what these courses are supposed to accomplish, and asking ourselves if there are new ways of doing so.

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