Sunday, September 15, 2013

You can't see what they're wearing...

The first time I taught a Hybrid course (2009) I fell in love with the format. (I'm the kind of person who falls in love with things like formats.) It was an advanced writing course for ESL students, and I took full advantage of blogging. We met once a week for 4 hours on Friday mornings; went over some grammar points, often doing small group activities to reinforce them, did some sharing of our writing, and started discussing our next topic/writing style. Everyone left with a writing project for their blog; I went over these on Wednesdays and made comments and suggestions. They could easily re-publish their posts, and I encouraged the use of visuals to enhance their writings. I watched in fascination as the combination of blog ownership, the ease of corrections and the joy of sharing their writings (we sometimes went "Blog Hopping") empowered them to become much more confident and effective writers. From there I developed a hybrid reading course. That joy I felt with those classes was the main reasons I felt hesitation when I had a chance to shift to a new position related to faculty development. 

Little did I realize at that point that my new position would take me even further into the realm of online teaching. I was introduced to the Quality Matters rubric for online teacahing in my first month on the job and - you guessed it! - fell in love with the format. Coming quickly on the heels of my training was a deep need at our institution to develop excellent online teachers. I worked with one of our Deans to put together a month-long online in-service for online teachers that highlighted their best practices. The more I worked with community college teachers the more I felt the need for information on utilizing technology and creating inclusive online and hybrid courses. With the need was so obvious and the teachers so interested in learning, I put together a month-long course for educators called "Technology for Teaching and Learning". It immediately filled up; I just finished the second round. And I find that online teaching can indeed be effective and inspiring as classroom teaching. 

Online teaching has a quieter personality from hybrid teaching, but like a lot of people with quiet personalities that take a while to get to know, they end up being your best friend. With online teaching, you can't see what the student is wearing. But you can see what the student is wondering. The excellent online teacher pays attention to discussions, makers herself available to questions, and sets up a course that is easy to navigate with an atmosphere that welcomes (not threatens) students. There are so many ways to connect with students personally online; you can respond to their needs with explanations, links to websites, and images. I always hated trying to draw things on the whiteboard, and frankly my handwriting is atrocious; my online courses have wonderfully engaging images (I use my camera often) and a great selection of readable fonts. 

The more I work with course development the more ways I find to communicate and develop relationships with my students, and for them to learn from each other as well. I am finding that discoveries and sharing from my online courses - which I can revisit whenever I want - reverberate in my mind longer than a ground class. Teaching online means teaching with the world at your fingertips. This means state-of-the-art possibilities with tools and technology. It literally means the best minds in the world can be part of your class materials. It means your students can study anytime, anywhere, and can ask you any question they want without disrupting class. As I prepare to teach the second iteration of the Canvas course "Hybrid Courses: Best of Both Worlds" - a massive online course about hybrid teaching - I reflect daily on these two teaching formats, comparing them as well as reflecting on and building my own approach and philosophy. The thing I look forward to the most in facilitating the course again is the communication and idea exchange that will go on between the participants, as they learn from and inspire each other. We'll be using a variety of technology I'm incorporating into the course - and developing Hybrid Course Planners along the way. I am also excited because we will have a fantastic guest speaker; Jesse Stommel will join us in a google hangout! I can't wait for this next adventure. (Interested educators from any field are welcome! Enroll here.) I created this week's infographic, thinking about online teaching: 

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