Office Hours???

When I taught on campus I always held office hours and yet no one came to visit me unless I asked them to or they thought that they were in some sort of trouble, i.e. too many absences, failed an exam, plagiarized on a paper, etc. Since I have been teaching online I have not held traditional or regular office hours. Should I hold office hours online? Perhaps I should not have office hours at a specific day and time since being online offers me and the students the flexibility being on campus does not. Of course, I am more available to my e-students more than my on-campus ones since we all email all the time as well as the questions and answers discussion thread on Blackboard, but I would like to chat with them once in a while and would also like to see them, so for I have used skype, but that also becomes a bit cumbersome as we all need to go outside of blackboard. Currently, I meet my students online via video chat whenever they need to speak to me. It is a more on-demand office hours. When students want to speak to me they ask me to meet them on campus instead of online. For some reason, they tend to avoid speaking to me online even though I try to schedule a time that is convenient for both of us.

I think that if there were a skype type tool students might find it easier At this point blackboard does not offer a tool I can use exclusively for office hours or private chatting. In an older version, they had a chat tool that I used to talk to my students in real-time. I guess they feel that I and the other instructors don’t need that kind of a tool. The only thing that is available is Blackboard Collaborate I thought it could a great alternative for virtual office hours as I can actually use it to talk to my students without having to log into different software. From the video that watched this tool is meant to be used for holding synchronous lessons, but it is not so good for private one-to-one teacher-student discussions or private office hours as anybody can enter the virtual room and be part of the discussion. Below you will find a link that explains what Blackboard Collaborate is and what features it has:

I believe that meeting with students face-to-face or online is important. It allows the e-students to feel more connected to their instructor. So what are my choices? Either go into campus to meet with students, which in my opinion is odd, as the whole course is held online. On the other hand, the online options are to use skype or Google hangouts, which for some reason the students don’t like to use when I suggest it. I wonder why is that? Is it more intimidating to walk into your professor’s office or video chatting online? I think the second!



When the emails start flying…


I don’t know why but I always loved the beginning of school year. As a child, I was always excited to get my new textbooks, notebooks, and pencils. The changing of the season signaled a new beginning…

As a teacher there is nothing like the first day of class during the fall semester as it is hectic and invigorating all at the same time. Now that I teach online I don’t have the same feeling as I did when I taught on campus because it takes my students a few days to get going, but even in an online course there is a flurry of activity. Students are still registering, adding and dropping courses. Logging in to their Blackboard courses, buying textbooks, notebooks, laptops, pens, pencils, etc. Updating their computer software and generally making sure that they are ready to go.

It is always such a fun week as the emails begin arriving filled with students’ messages they are full of questions about the course, the syllabus, assignments, how the course is set up on Blackboard, etc.

My favorite part of the first week is getting to know my students. Besides requesting that they upload their photo to Blackboard I also ask them to create a podcast and introduce themselves. The oral intros give me a better understanding of how they express themselves while speaking. I love listening to their podcasts as it helps me to learn more about them. You can hear their accent if they are ESL/international students, or the nervousness that comes through the audio because some students become extremely anxious as it is the first time they are creating a podcast and they don’t know how to feel about talking into a microphone. On the other hand, I am always impressed with the students as many make their podcasts sound so effortless even though when they blog about it creating the podcast they admit that they had to record their introduction ten to fifteen times before submitting it.

The other activity that I am always eager to do is read is their first written assignment as it provides me with a lot of information about how they express themselves. When I read their words I somehow can envision them in my mind even though I never meet them in person. I can hear their voice coming out. It is like one’s fingerprint, unique and distinct. Although they all write about the same topic not one paper is the same. The nuances in the writing from the choice of words, expressions, syntax to the tenses they decide to use makes each text different. As I read their papers I can hear their voices like I do when I listen to their podcasts. Some nervous, some not so sure, and some confident…

When teaching on campus a lot of the small details fall by the side because you get to see and talk to the students and the visual stimulations take over. On the other hand ,teaching online provides me with the luxury of actually listening to my students even when they are writing to me. Paying attention to the details makes me more aware of their who they are as people since they communicate predominately in writing with me. Not that I didn’t notice before, but because I don’t meet them now and talk to them in person I thought I would lose the connection I had with my students, but interestingly enough I have not. In fact, in many instances I feel I get to know them better than I ever knew many of my on-campus students. The reason is that e-learners are constantly talking to me and their classmates online something that does not always happen in an on-campus course. Remember that not all students talk in a face-to-face course, on the other hand, all of my e-students email me when they have a question as well as post their opinions every week in the blog and online class discussions. So they are constantly interacting, connecting, and collaborating with me and with their classmates throughout the semester. At this point when I don’t receive messages from my students I start to worry. So let the emails continue to fly…