Reflections of an Online Instructor – Episode #1
I was just assigned to teach my first fully online course!
Exciting? Sure! But, how do I feel about this—I have so many questions? How do I transfer my content from my traditional face-to-face classroom? Will I need to adjust my instructional strategies to achieve the course’s learning outcomes? How will I get to know my students?
Questions! Questions! Luckily for me, when I was teaching in the traditional classroom environment I would use our LMS (Blackboard) to share resources with my students. I taught traditionally using Blackboard for several years. And, I have completed the process of being endorsed by the institution to teach online courses. My background (as a teacher) and the certification course have prepared me to a certain extent, but reality is sure to be different.
Well, what do I know? Most important, being endorsed is the first step to be completed before anyone can teach online. I was excited to complete the 6 weeks online training course that leads to an endorsement to teach online. It helped me learn how to identity with my students, and it helped me prepare myself to teach online. Also, the course clarified the different roles that I must accept if I am to make my online course a well-designed one.
I also now know that my role as an instructor will change from my previous teaching experiences. In the traditional classroom, teachers have a critical and essential role–we present and share information and interact with students. In an online course, the teacher does few if any of the traditional things. Yes, we do try to mimic the classroom in the virtual world, but it’s not the same, nor should it be. As a matter of fact, there is a theory in the literature dealing with online learning called “equivalency theory.” It says in an online course we should identify equivalent learning experiences to those we use in a face-to-face class. We should not try to use identical strategies—equivalent not identical is the phrase I remember.
I also know, based on my background and experiences, that teachers are critical to successful online instruction, but our roles have changed. It has become obvious to me that online instructors must now be the designers, organizers, motivators, and assessors among other things. These are roles that teachers have long been advocating as vital to the teaching and learning process — when teaching online, these roles are critical.
The endorsement course I just completed helped me learn how to prepare my syllabus for my online course. I am now aware that it must be detailed and have understandable, achievable goals and objectives with instructional strategies that will facilitate the course’s desired learning outcomes. The creating of my syllabus was the first artifact of many that will make up my transition from traditional to online instructor.
I hope my thoughts about the process I am going through as I prepare to teach my first online course will be helpful to you. I will continue to share my observations and activities, and I hope you will find my experiences useful to you.
Next month, in Episode #2 of my story, I will share my challenges creating a detailed online syllabus and how I plan to design, develop and deliver the content of my first course. “See” you then!