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Final Reflection – Field Experience in Online Teaching – BSU / IDLA

May 7th, 2014 Comments off

Before entering the classroom, I took a course in IDLA’s Blackboard that got me up to speed on IDLA policies and procedures.  I participated in two live sessions one in GoToMeeting and one in Collaborate that further clarified my responsibilities.  I took a crash course in Blackboard and found that it is very similar to Moodle.  I even got to play around with a demo course for English 12B in Blackboard.   I then took two weeks and eased into the two sections of senior English.  I “observed” and watched discussion boards, made a few announcements, and facilitated the discussion for one section.  I also took time to become familiar with the curriculum, read (skim and re-acquaint) the novels that the students were reading, and become acclimated.  After that, I took the reins and released unit 5 to both sections.  I facilitated both discussion boards, graded all assignments, provided in-depth feedback on the student outlines, and provided positive and personal feedback on most assignment and exam questions.  Basically, they were mine for two weeks.  Kendra handled most of the day-to-day stuff that came up that was not related to unit 5 and she handled all SMS logging since I did not have access to that system.  Unit 4 progress reports were due and all students that were below a 70% or had not logged in to the course recently had to be contacted by telephone or email if no phone contact could be made.  Kendra and I each took a section to call.  I conducted the intervention for section 2 to parents and students over the course of two days.  I spoke to several parents and several students via telephone.  When I couldn’t reach someone on the phone, I emailed the student’s parent and cc’d the student, Kendra, and the site coordinator.  In several cases, the email prompted a return call from the site coordinator or the student.  I kept a log so that Kendra could document the information in the Student Information System.  This was a great experience for me.  Talking to people puts a human touch on what can be an impersonal delivery method.

I also corresponded with several students via email when they had questions about assignments and grades or needed help with an assignment.  This was a rewarding experience as well.  It gave me the opportunity to help and get to know some students on a more personal level and make a stronger connection.  I was also able to see a direct impact of my efforts as I noticed that many of the students that I contacted began to turn in work and begin to catch up.

Once unit 5 was complete and the courses moved into unit 6, I remained in the classroom grading assignments from unit 5 as they came in late or had second and third attempts turned in.   I remained until the end of last week (5/2/2014) since I wanted to make sure that the majority of students that I worked with could turn in second attempts and continue to get feedback from me.

I did have an incident in which a student violated the academic honesty policy that I handled with the guidance of Kendra and Jeff (the online principle) as well as the site coordinator for the students regular school.  In the past, when I’ve had students plagiarise work, it has always been a delicate situation.  The student usually becomes defensive and argues.  In this case, the student and parent were informed and because IDLA is so thorough about outlining their academic honesty policies, there was no confrontation and the student continued to turn in work.

I did get to conduct office hours in the Academic Help Center in Collaborate.  No students took advantage of it, but it gave me some time to use Collaborate.  I’m not worried about the live sessions though since I do them on a very regular basis in my current employment duties.  As part of the internship process, I did design a discussion based assessment / activity that I targeted toward the beginning of the course that involved course expectations and allowed students to interact with what was expected of them and discuss what they expected to get out of the course.  I included an example of that lesson in my Blackboard CourseSites course as well as all of the announcements that I’ve created as part of the Online Teaching Field Experience.  Those can be found here.  Just log in with the username – user8903 and the password – user.

I don’t think that I could have asked for a more realistic and authentic experience from this internship.  I guess, I’m lucky that way, I had a very positive and realistic experience with my initial student teaching internship before my certification.  The internship, I feel, played a large role in IDLA offering me a teaching position with them for the coming school year.  I look forward to working at IDLA for a long time to come.

The entire internship process with IDLA seemed to be well designed and mesh pretty well.  The IDLA staff did very good job creating a series of activities that went beyond just facilitating a unit in the online courses.  They provided very informative courses within the IDLA Blackboard LMS that helped to detail IDLA policies, Blackboard tutorials, and other resources that helped me get up to speed with their operation and functioning.  They also included other aspects in the internship as well that regular teachers would complete and perform on a daily basis.  I reviewed the English 12B course for content, quality, and usability which is something that teachers do on a regular basis.  I also got the opportunity to create a discussion board activity for the IDLA.  Kendra said that she was working with the curriculum personnel to incorporate parts of it into some of the Language Arts courses.  The experience was authentic and meaningful to me and provided me with a basis of what it’s like to be an online teacher with IDLA.  I realize that the program is really new.  I have to say that, if I wasn’t informed of this, I would not have realized that this hadn’t be a program running for some time.  It was professional and enlightening.  The only real area that I feel could be improved is in the description of the extra tasks.  It wasn’t immediately apparent to me what I needed to do to complete the course review and discussion based assessment.  With that being said, it was easy for me to find out since all of the staff at IDLA are there to help with helpful and prompt responses to my inquiries via email.  It really was a pleasure to work with each of them.

I’ve been teaching in the online environment for several years now.  It’s been in the corporate world and the curriculum calls for all synchronous sessions, but the essence of online education is the same in both synchronous and asynchronous environments.  Students need to feel as if the instructor is invested in them and a sense of community needs to be established.  I firmly believe this.  It’s easier to accomplish in a synchronous environment, but it can be done in the asynchronous world as well.  I’ve learned through my internship—which is my first real experience facilitating in an asynchronous environment—that students need to see results.  They need feedback quickly and that the sooner they get an assignment graded, the more value it has and the more likely they will redo it if it is not correct or acceptable.  Basically, the sooner they get the feedback and the grade, the more likely they will retain and learn from the experience.  They will also feel more connected to the instructor and other students as well as the content.  The same holds true with responding to communications.  It’s imperative to respond as quickly as possible.  I’ve found that even a simple acknowledgement that you received their message can go a long way to creating that trust.  It certainly alleviates some anxiety and sets some expectations as to when their request will be resolved.  This is imperative.  This builds trust and student trust in the instructor leads to better learning outcomes and stronger resonances for the student.  Basically the student makes a stronger connection with the content as well.

As I stated earlier, this internship has been a tremendous experience for me.  I enjoyed the tasks that I performed and enjoyed interacting with the students.  It’s provided me with a good idea of what to expect in the online teaching world and I think that the partnership between IDLA and BSU has borne many fruits and will continue to do so for years to come.

Categories: General Reflection Tags: ,