If you are new to online teaching you probably have some concerns and lots of questions. Please use this forum to voice what is on your mind.

Tags: pedagogy, cms, online

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How in the world am I supposed to do this? That's what I thought when my school first told me to build a class online.

If your school is like mine, you didn't get any training in how to teach online. Biggest thing to remember when you are starting out, don't try to do too much. It will make it way harder on you, and your kids. And your kids will be the biggest losers.

Another good trick is to work in pairs (teachers) and try to do each others assignments. A big reason kids don't complete work is because it doesn't make sense. It really helps to have someone actually attempt to do the work as a student, from opening the assignment to the submission.

I have many more tips, but don't want to go to far, starting small :)
One of my biggest concerns is making sure my classes are interesting and engaging. Nothing turns a students off more quickly than another boring history class! There are so many great web based items available that I often wonder if I have "the best" that is out there. I have learned over the last year to not get too caught up in the quest for the best.

I worry about incorporating Web 2.0 tools into my courses. My goal is to seamlessly integrate them, not include them as an afterthought. I fear that my students might be overwhelmed by what I ask them to do. I hope my relationship with them is strong enough that they know they are free to ask for help as often as needed.

That brings me to my last concern. I have no problem bonding with students when I see them in person all of the time. However, this year will be different. I may not have the opportunity to meet my online students f2f. I will have to rely on Skype, Elluminate, email, and IM to get to know my students. I hope it works!
How do I effectively use web2.0 tools when it feels like my superiors and the community are a little close minded? They don't want students outside the walled garden, but what they offer inside the walled garden doesn't do what I want it to do!

Also, one class of mine is working really well online - we're pushing the boundaries regarding my first concern all the time, we're building a sense of community and we're doing good with our curriculum. BUT I may not have them next year, and no other teacher in the school works on the level I am - what happens to those kids? Personally, I'm doing a uni course atm which doesn't have an online component and I'm hating it. Am I setting these kids up for a rough ride when/if they have to go back to a no ict enhanced classroom?
This is very similar to teaching in a traditional classroom when you know that as a 4th grade teacher what you are doing with your students is not going to transfer into their 5th grade teachers class. But you are teaching them skills they will use for their life. You are also teaching them to think about what is traditional vs. modern and that will give them tools to challenge others and improves their critical thinking.
As far as the walled garden, that's one of the biggest challenges for implementing emerging technologies. You have to PROVE to them what you are proposing is valid for learning. You have to show them that what they fear isn't really more than sensationalized media stories in most cases. Maybe you should try enlarging your garden first. Start sharing your student work with other students in the school and that might help to get teachers on board.

For example, our Ning "walled garden" network was piloted with 200 kids and 5 teachers last semester after I took it out of just my course and opened it up. This year we are expanding even further, opening it up to 725 students and 30 teachers.
About expanding the walled garden - my classes have been instrumental in doing exactly this. We're coaching, supporting, demonstrating and modelling for the other students and teachers in our school. It is growing and that's a huge positive.

I'm lucky in that I have a team of school leaders who support me pushing the boundaries.
There are degrees between walled garden and open to the whole world.

I used WordPressMu as an example in this post to my blog. I think you night find this interesting.
I posted this discussion back in July on the eve of beginning my job as an online teacher. I had dabbled in online teaching in the summer of 2007 when my school piloted an online program, but that was the extent of my practical experience. Here we are four months down the road and my perspective has changed somewhat.

Almost nothing went right from the start. Most of the schools we work with have technology that dates back to when N'Sync and the Backstreet Boys were on the top of the charts. How on Earth did they expect a student (much less multiple students at one time) to be able to watch videos and navigate the Internet on machines that were considered old ten years ago? In some schools it takes 10-15 minutes for students to simply log on to the network!

Out of the 35 or 40 original students only a few are still standing.................and there are still FIVE months of school to go. There is a chance that schools will decide to enroll students for the second semester which is fine with me. I hope they are a little bit more aware of how online classes work. The overwhelming majority of the students that took our classes have very little motivation and were not self-directed. Many of the online students lacked the basic skills that one needs to survive in any classroom--------like the ability to read! There was even a SPED kid who deaf and blind dumped into our program. His school NEVER bothered to tell us anything until I inquired as to why he was struggling.

I do not have as positive an outlook about online education as I had a few months ago. I have a great PLN, but there are not too many online educators in that group. That is why I am writing to this group. (I hope you guys subscribe to this discussion board!) I need to hear some success stories..............PLEASE share!

I do have a couple of students who are doing well so I take comfort in knowing that it is not my class that has caused my students to fail. I have two students who have stayed active and who I believe will do just fine. The students who are failing are failing miserably!

I believe that communication is so important in any learning environment, but especially in a VLE. I have tried so hard to build relationships with my students, but there are some who flat out will NOT communicate with me. I will probably add a "communications" component to my classes for the second semester so they know that not communicating is not an option.

I am in the process of redesigning my classes so they are easier to navigate. We are also moving to the built-in Moodle gradebook which might help as well. 100% of my lessons will be contained inside of Moodle from now on. I was using GoogleDocs, but our particular clientele is not ready for something so sophisticated. Heck, our own staff is apprehensive about using it and bristles every time I suggest using it for collaborative purposes! Heaven forbid we practice what we are trying to teach.

Please forgive my sarcasm. I should know better than to write in here when I am not feeling well. ;-(
Beth - Its a constant struggle and evolution as a teacher. This is a new field and there aren't a lot of great numbers to support it yet. But, keep working towards solutions that fit your learning model and eventually you will start to get some results. Even after a long fight, if you have discovered that maybe online learning doesn't work in your little nook of the world (maybe not mine either), at least you will have become a much better teacher. I know the hard work you put in will pay off.
Cory- Online education holds so much promise for education, but the problem for my school is that the wrong students were thrown into the online classes. Nine out of 21 districts enrolled students in our online classes this fall. The overwhelming majority of those students were placed in there to get them out of the traditional classroom where they had worn out their welcome. The people who were in charge of choosing the students for our online program were, for the most part, completely naive about what our classes were going to be like. They assumed that our classes would be much like A+ and some of the other online learning programs that are on the market. Some have even admitted that they thought the classes would be easier since they were online!

We have all learned some incredibly tough lessons this semester. The silver lining is that now we know what does not work! Online classes are a great option for a special segment of the student population. Kids who have trouble reading, paying attention, or attending school are not good candidates for online classes. The first year of any new schools is tough. We will survive and live to see another year.
The "wrong students" are the students who are taking online courses at this point. I teach in a terrible school district in the state with the lowest graduation rate in the country. A vast majority of our students come to our school because they weren't successful in the district. We are getting students who have no organizational and motivational skills and asking them to be in charge of their learning.

That is normal right now. We are a public school and take who shows up at our door. Most online programs at the HS level are getting kids who don't do well in school. If they were doing well, they wouldn't be looking for an alternative (there are exceptions to this rule of course).

You have to get to the point where you accept who your students are and not wish for them to change. I was in your exact shoes about 3 years ago. In addition, I wouldn't get too confident that you have "found what does not work." Things that dont work one year might work the next. Things that work one year wont work ever again. I've been at this 5 years and know how to do a lot with online teaching, but could never admit that I know what does and does not work with any confidence.

Keep your head up and things will come together. Once you accept who your kids are going to be, it will be easier. I promise. :)

Thanks for the encouragement. I am a f2f teacher switching to online, and I certainly have some fears. I did my first Elluminate session today and it was so cool. I worry about making mistakes with my first course, though. I'm wondering how long it will take to get into a natural swing of things.

Rashel-

I started this discussion thread over two years ago. Thrilled to see it is still helping people.

 

As I was skimming through the prior comments one thing stood out to me that is so important and that is communication. Being able to communicate with our students in a variety of ways is so important. While much of our communication with students is asynchronous it is important to talk with them in real time as well. If you have access to a web based videoconferencing system then take advantage of it. I have used Skype, Adobe, and Google video chat, but the platform is irrelevant. What matters is talking to them and seeing each other to help establish a trusting relationship.

 

Cory is right on with his comments. We have to accept our kids for who they are. What I did not articulate very well was that the courses we originally designed were for high ability students, but schools enrolled credit recovery students in them. (Hence the "wrong" student comment.)

 

I am looking forward to hearing more about what you teach and why you are transitioning.

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