Sunday, October 13, 2013

23 Things Every Online Teacher Should Know

For a class activity in the "Making the Virtual Classroom" a reality program, we have been asked to make a list of 23 things we think every online teacher should know.

Here are some of my ideas:

1. Just because you may be an expert in your content area or even an expert teacher in the face to face environment does not mean you will be a natural when it comes to teaching in the online classroom. It's a different environment, and it requires training, patience, and an open-mind to learn and use new teaching strategies.

2. Similarly, just because you may be an expert in technology does not mean you will be a natural expert when it comes to teaching online. You will need to carefully consider the technology you will use in the online classroom and how to adapt that technology to students of all backgrounds.

3. Take A LOT of time to learn and play with your learning platform (such as Blackboard).

4. Create modules/units with clear objectives and activities: what students will absorb, do, and apply during each unit.

5. Create clear rubrics so students will know exactly what is expected of them to earn all points.

6. Reflect on how to adapt testing online. Will it be timed? Open-book? How will you mitigate cheating?

7. Reflect on how to create strong discussions. How much interaction with one another is required?

8. Vary types of discussions: all students talk about one question, each student has his/her own question, put students into small discussion groups, etc.

9. Familiarize yourself with plagiarism programs like Safe Assign.

10. Learn to create video content. Consider creating lectures, overviews, and audio explanations of content online.

11. Be available to students. How kind of virtual office hours and means of communication will you have available to students?

12. Reflect on due dates. Will you have a regular due date (such as the same day every week) or will due dates be random? If due dates are random, what kind of calendar will you use to help remind students?

13. Give prompt feedback. It's easy to forget assignments were turned in, and many online students-- just like face to face students-- enjoy prompt, regular feedback.

14. Take workshops, classes, and seminars on anything and everything online. Learn new technologies and new teaching strategies.

15. Discuss synchronous and asynchronous activities. Would synchronous activities be of benefit to your students? If so, how to encourage students to participate while maintaining the flexibility of an online class?

16. Take online classes too. Not only do the best teachers always learn, but the best online teachers should be familiar with the online environment as a student to enhance his or her own online teaching.

17. Participate in active discussions with colleagues who teach online. Learn from one another.

18. Be creative with assignments. We've all had an online class when every week was the same kind of discussion post. Be different, and challenge students.

19. Learn how to connect in personal ways with online students as you would your face to face students. How can you incorporate some personality, some humor, some understanding-- that human element-- in your online classes?

20. Let students know you are reading their work. It may difficult to respond to every discussion post every time, but be sure to respond to students directly throughout the course as much as you can.

21. Use technology to enhance learning, not to replace it.

22. Be student-centered. Make them the leaders. The online environment provides a great opportunity to challenge students to be even more independent, responsible, and motivated.

23. Lastly, remember why you teach. Whether it's online or face to face, bring the best you have to every class. You don't have to be perfect. You just have to care, be willing to learn, and be ready to adapt.

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