I know what you’re thinking…what a bizarre title for a post. Especially on a blog that is part of Cedarville University. You would be right in thinking that if I had not attended the AECT (Association for Educational Communications and Technology) convention in Las Vegas last month. I was invited to be a part of a panel with some other Boise State doctoral students and alums to discuss how our professions changed in response to COVID-19. So I figured that while I’m in the area, I’ll attend some sessions and see what I can bring back to share. This month, I’ll be sharing some of the takeaways with you, starting this week with takeaways from a session titled “One Recommendation for Online Instructors.”
As part of this session, presenter Sheri Conklin shared some best practices for online learning centered around the instructor’s role in an online course. These best practices were coded from students’ responses to the question “What is one recommendation you would give your instructor” presented in an end-of-course survey in an online program at UNC-Wilmington.
#1 Don’t try to recreate your face-to-face course.
Online learning is inherently different. The more you try to replicate what you do in your face-to-face classroom, the harder it is going to be for your students and for you, the educator. Instead, look for ways to create an active learning environment that is not limited to the walls of a lecture hall. Be creative: Use asynchronous discussion, collaboration, short videos, and readings instead of a synchronous lecture style you would normally use in your face-to-face.
#2 Test it before you use it.
An online course is not the best time to roll out a new technology or to “try something new.” Pilot your new ideas in a sandbox, with colleagues, or come talk to us at CTL! We would love to test drive something with you. Your students can see right through your attempts at using technology, and if you thought it was hard to learn a new technology, imagine being on the receiving end of someone using a tool they know little about. As the kids say, “oof.”
#3 Give authentic assignments.
Don’t give busy work, and don’t give more work. Instead, give assignments that are achievable and encourage interaction with other students, with the content, and with you, the instructor.
#4 Show that you’re real.
Your students want to know who you are. They want to know that you could pass the “I am not a robot” test and be able to identify traffic lights in a grid. This means being interactive, being vulnerable, and being approachable. If you forgot to grade something or if you’re behind, share it. If you had a hard week, share it. If you had an awesome week, share that too! Students want to connect with you. Even a simple Q&A discussion board in the course can help with this, but be sure to check it often and respond!
#5 Empathy, empathy, empathy
This kind of goes with the previous one. One of the emerging codes from the study was empathy. Empathy also aligns with the practice of servant teaching that we have previously discussed. The takeaways from this session in regards to empathy were: show some personality, know your audience, and be flexible. But empathy can also be seen in your announcements, your quick responses to student emails and messages, and your constructive feedback on assignments.
Dr. Conklin is an expert in social presence in online courses. If you would like to read more from her, you can find her most cited articles in Google Scholar.
I will be sharing more lessons throughout the month of November. If you have questions, feel free to reach out!