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Module 1 Reflection

September 9th, 2013 Comments off

Most of my experience teaching has been to high school students.  My BS is secondary education.  I originally started the MET program looking to advance my teaching methods by incorporating more technology into my traditional classroom and to even move, perhaps, to teach fully online but it was always with high school students in mind.

Well, a couple of huge life changes happened and I found myself in a traditional classroom teaching adults ranging in age from 18-60.  This was a new experience for me.  The whole goal of the teaching was different as well.  I now taught people how to do their jobs.  The curriculum was very specific and goal oriented.  The learners were being paid to be there so the typical high school lack of motivation was largely eliminated.  It was still there with the younger adults, but the problem was quickly eliminated with a threat of getting fired.  Sometimes the threat had to be carried out but it was different for me because I could eliminate the problems and disruptive students.

I also found that the students seemed a bit more motivated because they were learning a task that they were going to be doing for eight hours per day and in most cases the task scared them a little at the beginning.  I changed my focus and started researching about adult learners and what they might need that was different.  This course is part of that research and serving as an elective for me.

Since March, I have transitioned from a traditional classroom to a virtual one and now train students that will work from their own homes taking phone calls for technical support or a major company.  This has been a huge change for me and I can immediately some of the differences here.

I’m going to begin by defining an online course.  It’s simply a course that is delivered online via Internet technology and protocols.  The students do not meet face to face in the same room, although with the use of video conferencing technologies, a virtual face to face meeting can be arranged sometimes.  Online teaching involves many different aspects that are similar to traditional teaching.  The instructor has to play the part of authority (sometimes), subject matter expert, facilitator, coach, and the numerous other roles.  With traditional classrooms all learning is synchronous.  With online education, asynchronous aspects come into play.  Students not only don’t have to meet face to face, but they can also attend and participate at different times.  It can make courses more diverse and the range of experiences of the students more expansive.  It’s an exciting field.  Online education can be done synchronously as well.  The classes that I teach are all synchronous and made possible through the use of Adobe Connect for virtual meetings with audio.

Designing an effective online course can be challenging.  It’s simply not enough to take curriculum designed for traditional classrooms and shove on an LMS.  That will fail.  Group work can be more challenging as well as discussions.  Also, the camaraderie and sense of community that naturally spring into existence is by no means naturally occurring in online environment.  Instructors need to have additional activities at each stage of the course and require specific participation to build the community.  Online learners are behind the digital wall of anonymity and usually will not connect with peers without some bit of coaxing and participation in activities designed for students to get to know each other and bond.  Additionally, instructors have to develop different ways to conduct formative evaluation.  They can’t pick up on body language, blank stares, or vocal tones to surmise if students are “getting it.”  They have to create quizzes, monitor discussion boards, and create assignments designed to gauge understanding.   With my current position being completely synchronous, it’s still imperative to have these activities and little quizzes and polls.  Even though I can hear their voices and they can converse amongst themselves, the digital wall is still there and it takes a little more work to climb it.

Assignments have to be approached differently as well.  Assignments and tasks that are routine in a traditional classroom have to be redesigned.  For example “come and write that on the board” can’t happen in the digital world, so we might use a discussion board with prompts instead.    So I guess, the effective online class would incorporate methods to build community and camaraderie, more formative assessment that does not include observation since observation is not directly possible, and a redesign of curriculum so that the activities, including group work, work and are effective in an online setting.

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