At this point, I have been teaching online for over 6 years now and ever since I began working online many of my colleagues kept saying that since I teach online I can teach from anywhere in the world and how cool that would be. Although I thought about it I never actually did it until this summer because I felt extremely nervous and worried that many things could go wrong, especially the internet connection.
Six years later as a more seasoned and confident online instructor, I decided to take my laptop and go to Greece to visit my family instead of waiting for my courses to end. So I am sure you are wondering what happened…
My trip was not without its challenges such as the time change, figuring out a different work schedule, being blocked by my Norton firewall, to catching a computer virus, etc but to my surprise it went a lot better and smoother than I thought it would. It was a lot of fun being able to work from a relative’s home in Athens or from my parents’ dining room in the southern part of the Peloponnese while spending time with them and being able to continue working.
For me, the hardest part was when I was traveling to and from Greece because I could not log in from the plane. Throughout my flight, I was wondering if any of my students are panicking as students tend to do while taking online courses especially if I do not respond to them quickly enough. I say this because students are so use to getting a fast response when they are taking an on-campus course that if they do not hear from me as quickly as they think they should they get upset, panicked, angry and frustrated. Which is quite understandable since many students have not taken an online course before and are not use to waiting for their instructor to respond a few hours or a day later. Many students assume that I am logged in all day and night so I can respond to them at 2 am.
As a result I kept thinking if they are fine or are they were having a technical issue or something went wrong when they submitted their homework assignment etc. while I was traveling and the students were posting questions in the Q&A forum or even emailing me to let me know and ask me for advice and I was not able to respond to them for over 12 hours.
Therefore the first thing I did when I first arrived in Athens Greece was to connect to the internet in order to log into my course because I had been offline for 15 hours and had not checked in with my students. Thankfully none of my students had needed my assistance or had posted a question so no one realized that I had travelled half way across the world. To my surprise and despite some small challenges mostly router issues I was able to maintain my regular working schedule so students did not notice any changes in the way the course was facilitated.
Things to Consider when deciding to travel while teaching online:
- Time Difference: Greece has a 7-hour time difference to the US so it takes a while to adjust to it. Thus making one’s work schedule a bit of a challenge.
- Find space to work: Carving out a quiet space to work in someone else’s home is tricky because not only are you changing the way you work, but you are also changing the way the people you are visiting live. As you are taking up space in their kitchen or dining room to work you want to be considerate of their feelings and respect they way they live. So clean up after yourself when you have finished working. Also, think about what time would be less intrusive. I mostly worked during the midday siesta or late at night.
- Internet Connection: For example, at my parents home the internet connection was not working well or fast enough. One reason was that they had a thunderstorm with a lot of lightening which caused the router to malfunction. So I spent the first three days trying to figure out what is going on and I ended up replacing their router.
- Internet Security: Beware of computer viruses!! I cannot stress that enough. Almost every time I visit Greece my computer catches a virus this time is was an OSX.Trojan.Gen, but thankfully I have Norton installed on my laptop so it took care of it. Make sure to install some software like Norton or MacAfee so your computer is always protected no matter where you to travel to.
- Have different logging in options: When you travel your computer’s IP address will change because you are accessing the internet with a different router so you might have trouble as I did viewing different sites with extra security like I did when trying to access my work email. It took me a couple of days to figure out that my Norton firewall did not like my new IP address and it was not letting me log into my email. Till I figured out what was going on I was able to use my cell phone to access my email address, but it can be quite nerve-racking because I kept thinking what else I am going to lose access to. So have several options i.e. devices such as a smartphone and/or tablet to use just in case this happens to you.
- Different working pace: Remember that although you are working you are also on vacation and you should enjoy going out and having fun. If you are stuck in the house working all day what is the point of traveling so consider changing the way you work. I found that I was able to work and play while traveling because I took advantage of their midday siesta. While everybody napped I worked on my courses so when they were ready to go I was too. If I ran out of time and had a lot to do I also worked late at night. The bonus of working around their sleep schedule was that the Internet was faster. Staying positive and being flexible while traveling is key because the benefits of traveling and visiting family outweighs any small challenges that you might be faced with while on the road.