In the past, I have talked about teaching online and the path I took to get here, but I had I known what I know now I am not sure I would have decided to teach online or maybe I would have, who knows. Things I found out on the way I wish I knew before I started teaching online:
- Workload-It takes a lot more time to teach an online course than it does a face-to-face one. From responding to emails, participating in class discussions, making comments on blogs to reading and commenting on students’ papers is extremely time-consuming.
- Course Design– Everything needs to be streamlined i.e. such as folders, discussion threads, and homework assignments are clear and organized, so students don’t spend a lot of time looking for information.
- Course Prep– takes a lot longer because everything has to be designed, created, and uploaded before the course begins. By doing that you eliminate the adding to your workload during the semester. The other thing I discovered is that the syllabus became a big deal because now it had to explain everything that was going to happen in the course before the course began.
- Engagement-Learning how to build a class community is a tough one to accomplish. In order to break the ice and make the students more comfortable I have them create a podcast introducing themselves to each other. I also use Voice Thread to lecture or respond to student questions as it seems to be easier for the students to understand what they need to do because they hear my voice. I think listening to me speak helps them realize that I am real. I also have them do peer reviews so they get to read their classmates’ writing and comment on it. This activity allows them to learn and support each other.
- Set up guidelines for students– Have clear deadlines for everything and return homework consistently. So for example, students know to expect their homework within five days not the day after they submitted it.
- Faculty Development– As far as faculty support goes I can’t complain my university ran a lot of different blackboard workshops, but they didn’t do the work for me like at other institutions. That is good and bad because I had to work a lot more that I did before but this also gave me the freedom to explore and create the course that I wanted.
- Faculty Mentoring/Support– The other thing that would have helped me at the beginning was being able to see how other faculty designed their online courses. As there would be less trial and error. Also, online teaching can be lonely as there is no faculty community that supports each other while working from home. I would have liked to bounce ideas back and forth with someone who was in the same boat as me.
- Tools & Technology– Having to spend a lot of my own money on buying software, laptops, tablets, books, and taking graduate courses. Also, devoting extra time especially during the summer and winter breaks to learn new software, read books, and take classes or workshops so I could design and develop better courses.