Making the transition from classroom teaching to teaching online? Here are all the hats you can expect to wear in your new role—some familiar and some unique to the online environment.
The Tech Guy
You’ll need decent computer skills to effectively use whatever online courseware your institution provides. Practice using the program in advance so you’re familiar with the features and comfortable enough to multitask (talk, point, click, upload, etc.). Always have a backup plan in case some aspect of the courseware fails, such as sending the day’s slides to the class in advance. Most importantly, be prepared to diagnose your students’ technical problems on the fly.
Like any course, you’ll need to design an an effective online syllabus, structure the content, select appropriate media and modalities, and prepare effective aids. In an online course, however, you’ll have to craft activities that can be performed by students in a virtual environment, as well as adjust the timing and pace of activities to accommodate the features and idiosyncrasies of your courseware.
The Authority Figure
It’s your job to establish and enforce the boundaries of the online learning space—mutual respect, openness and integrity—as you would in a physical classroom. Emphasize to your online students that you expect no less from them in terms of quality, timeliness, and authenticity of their work. Be clear how you intend to communicate with students outside of class, and offer virtual office hours: a time when students can have private conference with you by phone, chat, or videoconference.
Create a supportive online course community by encouraging and acknowledging participation from every student. Some students will feel very comfortable contributing right off; others may need to be drawn out.
Model the behavior you want from your students by showing enthusiasm and personal commitment to the subject matter and your students’ learning journey. Foster student-centered learning and purposeful discourse. Guide discussions just enough so they don’t veer too far from the core content, intervening as needed to provide direction or manage disagreements.
The Subject Matter Expert
Online instructors should meet the same standard for content mastery as would be expected of a classroom instructor. Online and off, you are the conduit between your students and your field’s body of scholarship.
Solicit feedback from students on a regular basis. Ask how the course is going, what obstacles (technological or otherwise) they’re encountering, and request suggestions for improving the course experience. Most courseware comes with nifty polling features – use them to monitor your students’ progress against the learning objectives.
Encourage learners to take responsibility for their own learning by inquiring about their individual learning concerns and helping them personalize out-of-class work to their needs.
Show empathy for your students’ struggles, encourage their passions, get to know their perspectives and expectations, and make yourself available to them. If that sounds like too much of yourself to offer, you may want to rethink teaching—online or offline.
Share your own learning experiences with your class. Students are motivated and inspired by an instructor who genuinely enjoys learning and exploring new ideas within their field.
Borrow and share lesson ideas with other instructors or make a comment.