If you’ve been reading along for awhile, you know that I have never gotten to teach 100% online. However, it’s likely obvious that I have been dying to do that! And finally, starting in Fall 2017, I will get to do just that. And do you know how this came about?
It’s because I got myself a shiny new job, that’s how.
But for now, the thing to know is that in the 2017-2018 academic year I will have to teach two masters classes, and they will both be 100% online. The entire masters program is online, and I’m told the students (classroom teachers) are pretty good at navigating learning in an online context. My class will not be the first online class the students have ever taken. But it will be the first one I have ever taught.
Thinking About Community
I’ve written a lot on this blog about my use of digital tools, but I’ve written very little about teaching online specifically. My most recent post on the topic covered the importance of building community. While I obviously have to consider what I want students to learn, how they will demonstrate their learning, and so on…those things are all what I would consider in teaching any class in any context.
What I think is going to be extra critical with a 100% online class is building community. For the first time, I will have to figure out how to build relationships with people I may never see in person. And doing this is extremely critical. My classes tend to be spaces where I ask students – at all levels – to do things that tend to fall outside the norm of what they are used to in school. It is important that they have faith in themselves, but it’s also important that they trust me and trust in the process I am asking them to engage in,
So how do we do this? How do we build a solid online community within a course?
Well, I don’t know. I don’t really know how to do any of it, but I have ideas. And that’s what we’re going to start doing off and on around here – talking about how to put together an online course in a way that will (hopefully) build a strong classroom community while using online tools and learning in new and innovative ways. I’ll be documenting my thinking and the process of building this out. Then, once class starts up in the fall, we’ll see how it all goes!
Methods For Building an Online Community
There are plenty of ideas out there for building online communities at large (not necessarily online class communities). And some of these ideas are worth considering.
- The Twitter Chat: I’ve used twitter in my teaching in a number of ways. Moving forward, I like the idea of a dedicated hashtag to discuss issues related to the course. However, I am thinking I will move off of using a straight up course hashtag. While this has worked fine in the past I think it might be nice to consider using one that fits inside a broader community. This way, we interact with each other but also directly with that broader community we belong to. I’m not looking for a super popular hashtag here (because I worry we would get lost in the mix) but one of moderate use.
- The Discussion Board: I’m finding this comes up a lot in my research, but I’m not convinced of its merits. I don’t use them – haven’t even had the need to – but I suppose now I should consider it. The problem is I’ve examined how students approach leaving comments for one another on class blogs. While someone might write something substantive often the comments are not. This can be addressed through instruction and offering specific information on what comments/responses should look like. This is also very labor intensive in terms of reviewing for a grade. I’m not sure how it builds community.
- Posting Introductions: Even if most people in the class know each other this is still useful. It’s obviously useful to me because I won’t know anyone. But it’s important we know something about who we are interacting with, and I think it’s important we know what each other looks like. So a video introduction – or a voice over on a picture – is critical for a start. I also think it’s important for me to do videos on a regular basis where people can see me.
This probably seemed like the most basic post ever. But, it’s definitely something I need to work out. I’m excited about the challenges online teaching is going to bring. It’s definitely going to push me to consider the what and how’s of teaching and learning, and I’m looking forward to documenting it here.