I have been very excited that I will finally be teaching fully online! I ordered some desk copies of a few books, and they were spot on with what I needed. I felt like I was really getting ahead of the curve. I’m about six-seven months out from the first course starting, and I already have great books I can use! Now all I have to do is think about what we’re going to be learning and how that is going to play out in an online environment.
I panicked and froze up when I sat down and started to work things out. I mean, I know how to write a syllabus. I’ve done it so many times. I’ve developed plenty of new courses. I’ve got the skill set, right?
What happened is that everything looked so exciting and fun that everything looked exciting and fun. I couldn’t make a decision about what direction to move in because I could visualize so many possibilities that I struggled to make a decision.
While part of my brain was focusing on content, the other part of my brain was trying to figure out how to construct a class that was innovative and creative and edgy. And honestly, that is the LAST thing I need to thinking about right now.
Part of the problem was also that I’m used to planning hybrid classes. I’m used to having face-to-face sessions where we can touch base in person about things as a group. For some reason, suddenly not having this cause my brain to fail. I don’t know why.
I learned something from this, and that is the importance of structure. While I was trying to think about what to teach and how to teach it, I had neglected to consider the time frame. And while this is two courses that the same students take over a year, I needed to break it down into more manageable chunks. Thinking about how to teacher over a year, for something I have never taught before in a context I have never taught in, is too much. So I went back to something familiar.
I pulled up the academic calendar for next year, and I started creating weeks. Because my course never meets in person, it never has an official day assigned to it that I can touch base with. No big deal. I assigned it one. I picked Monday. Every time Monday hit, we started a new week. And I went through the calendar and mapped out all the weeks for the fall and the spring.
This is soooo not very exciting, right? And yet, very necessary. We have to embed structure in an online course or else students will float around in it and probably not do as well as they could. While I would like to have some free choice embedded within the course, I think I have to create a continuum of events that range from more to less freedom in terms of when they get accomplished.
And Now Back to the Content
So this is where I have gotten since we last spoke. I became overwhelmed, shut down, and then made a calendar. Now I’m back to focusing on what I want students to learn and if/how I want to use these texts I received. I’m trying not to consider things like assignments or if/how I want to apply gamification to the course. I probably do, but if I let the idea start rolling around in my mind I’ll get panicked again.
I think, for me, the message here is that there is always some value in going old school style in planning a class and writing a syllabus. It’s what I know well, and it helps me get the content down. Once I have that content then I can figure out what to do with it in ways that take advantage of it being an online class. Until I know what I am teaching, I can’t be overly concerned about the online space.