I’ve had the opportunity to experience the field of education from a few different perspectives. I’m currently enrolled as a Master’s student in the Instructional Design and Technology program at the University of Memphis, and I spent several years as a high school Marketing Education teacher. I also currently work for the University of Memphis as an Academic Technology Consultant. These experiences have provided me a chance to gain valuable insight into both the teacher and student roles.
One aspect of teaching that I have not had the opportunity to experience is that of teaching an online or hybrid course. As a classroom teacher, I incorporated online activities as well as gaming and simulation into my lesson plans. However, they couldn’t be classified as true hybrid or online courses. As a student, I have taken several hybrid and online courses as part of my Master’s program. Therefore based on my experience as a student, a teacher, and someone who currently assists faculty with instructional technology and online course design, I’ve created a “must do” list for anyone who is interested in creating online instruction.
Just as in a class which meets face-to-face, outlining all course information, policies, and requirements for your online course is critical to student success and aids in lessening student confusion. Post your course syllabus containing information such as how to contact the instructor, your policy regarding late work, grading criteria, and classroom “netiquette”.
#2. Plan to maintain a consistent presence within your online course.
In a face-to-face classroom setting, would you as the instructor simply place some notes up on the board or set your PowerPoint presentation to play and walk out of the room? I hope not! You would remain in the room to lead the class discussion, provide guidance, and assess student comprehension of the material. Maintaining your “virtual” presence in an online class is just as important as your physical presence in a face-to-face course. Your students need to know that you are monitoring the class activities, providing feedback in a timely manner, and are available to respond to questions as they arise. If several days/ weeks pass without interaction from the instructor, many students will begin to feel abandoned and unmotivated to continue on with their work in the course.
#3. Create a way for students to make a personal connection to their instructor and fellow classmates.
In many instances, the first session of a class which meets face-to-face includes time dedicated to allowing the instructor and students to introduce themselves. This serves as an ice breaker activity, and gives everyone a chance to make a personal connection with the people that they will be spending the semester with. This time to connect is just as important in an online or virtual classroom setting where face-to-face meeting opportunities are likely to never occur. Introductions could take place via a discussion board forum and would also allow the instructor and students the opportunity to link out to some of their academic and professional work to share along with their bio information.
#4. Create multiple ways for students to engage in the course material.
In the process of writing this post, I asked my personal learning network via Twitter to share any advice or tips for instructors who are creating online content. Barry Dahl, Vice President of Technology for Lake Superior College and Lake Superior Connect e-Campus, responded with the following: “If you’re creating online instruction, you better NOT be creating an electronic correspondence course. Interactivity is key.” I couldn’t agree with Barry more! Interactivity is crucial to creating effective online instruction. Otherwise, you’re simply creating digital notes for students to read. Discussion board posts, video clips, podcasts, and live chats certainly can enhance the course materials and target a variety of learning styles.
As a part of the blog that is maintained for Lake Superior College, student survey results were posted reflecting their thoughts on the importance and overall satisfaction of specific elements within their online learning experience. Nearly half of the items mentioned in the list of twelve ties directly back to course development and implementation. Definitely food for thought!
Guest blogger: Kristy Conger worked in the classroom for seven years as a Marketing Education teacher/ Work Based Learning Coordinator in the Henry County School System. She also taught computer literacy courses through the Adult Basic Education Program, and currently works as an Academic Technology Consultant for the University of Memphis. Kristy received her BS in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing from the University of Tennessee at Martin. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Instructional Design and Technology at the University of Memphis. After completing her degree, she would like to return to teaching in some capacity and perhaps work within a K-12 setting in an instructional technology role.