What I wish I would have known…

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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 you 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.



Should Conferences Go Online?


I love going to conferences as consider it the best way to find out what other people are working on in my field. Unfortunately most big organizations like Tesol(Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), CCCC(Conference on College Compositions and Communication), OLC(Online Learning Consortium) or ATD(Association for Talent Development) do not tend to come to the Boston Area.

So many times I have ended up traveling to great cities like San Francisco, New York, and Vancouver. I am not complaining because I love to travel, meet new people and learn new things, but lately due to family restrictions I have not been able to go to any outside Massachusetts.

In the past 3-4 years, several organizations have begun streaming some of their sessions online. To my delight these virtual conferences or live streamed sessions tend to be quite affordable, especially considering the amount of money it costs to attend a conference and also pay for the plane ticket, hotel and everything else that comes with going to such an event. A large part of going to a conference is also about meeting people in the field and interacting with them so that is not something you recreate when attending online. So, there are a lot of positives and negatives to watching streamed sessions.

In the last few years, I have virtually attended a few conferences. This time around I  watched the OLC conference that was taking place at Orlando Florida. They streamed live 110 sessions which was such an upgrade from the amount they streamed a couple of years ago. The topics ranged from MOOCs to tips and tricks on how to teach online to how to flip a classroom as well as how to how to design and online course and creating an effective online learning environment.

The other thing about attending a conference online is you are able to access the recorded sessions so you get to view all of them. In the case of the OLC they give you access to the videotaped sessions for up to a year so you actually get more out of the conference than going to the conference. I say this because most conferences have at least 50-100 concurrent sessions each day and there is no way you can get to listen to all of them. I remember one time I went with friends to a conference and we all went to different sessions and then got together and shared what we learned so we could get more out of the conference. So, having access to them for a year allows you can go a look at a presentation a few times something  you can’t do when you are physically attending a conference.

I marvel at how technology has changed our lives as it has transformed the way we work, learn, and play. I can’t wait to see what will happen next!