Being a teacher is a lot like being an artist: it takes a good deal of both hubris and humility. One must know something others ought to know and the hubris to profess it (hence the penultimate title). But a teacher must also have the humility to remain a student in perpetuity, accepting the notion that you never know all there is to know about anything. Lacking one of these traits, one needs to select another vocation.
Though I’ve been teaching at the college for 28 years and online for something like 7 years, I chose to take the Foundations of Online Teaching course this summer. Why? Because I thought it would make me a better teacher and (potentially) a better academic administrator.
I went in knowing a good deal about Blackboard operationally, having previously taken Blackboard training through the TLC and writing a course shell. In the exercises that surveyed Blackboard functions and features, I did learn about a few minor bells and whistles that I might use someday. But the LMS technology wasn’t the point of participating. What I did learn—and what is the primary outcome of the course—is to better apply LMS technology in creating a contemporary learning experience for my students. The course reviewed many things that I have learned over the years and caused me to reconsider how material and experiences might be presented to my students and likewise how my students would experience it. Being both an online student as well as an instructional designer and teacher, I was afforded the opportunity to reconsider what makes for a good course.
Most importantly, I spent a good deal of time understanding what makes for a good learning experience with students of differing learning styles. How do you provide for the introvert and the extrovert? For the visual learner, the aural learner, the experiential learner, and the physically or cognitively challenged learner? These questions aren’t just applicable to the parties designing a course shell. The manner in which responses are made and the value placed upon varied exercises is critical to student success. Min Pan did a marvelous job of modeling that skill and left me with more hubris than humility, even when it was probably not deserved.
The course didn’t solve all of the riddles of education. But it did ensure that participants are technologically and conceptually prepared to teach online (as well as apply those same LMS technologies in face-to-face courses) with an expectation of strong success. I gained some useful experience regarding student perceptions and I learned how to reduce student anxiety and build towards student success. Most importantly, I became more aware of my strengths and weaknesses as a teacher and have a better understanding of how to use contemporary technologies to take advantage of my strengths and compensate for my weaknesses in teaching and learning.
That is my profession.
Foundations of Online Teaching is a 5-week online course offered by Learning Technologies, focusing on best practices in online teaching, basic technical skills in using the College’s learning management system (LMS), and division-level policies for online teaching.
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