Resisting change and learning about myself

Holy Smokes!!! I am beat!  I’m sitting here at the end of a very long day in front of the computer and I’m not sure which way is up.  Nevertheless, I plod on.  Interestingly, this Module’s blog is all about look back at what I suppose is about the halfway point of the course and discussing what I’ve gotten out of it.  First, I had no concept of just how hard it is to plan on online course.  It took hours just for me to figure out how I was going to break the course into “chunks”  Then I had to pace out the timing of each module, construct the outline of what I wanted to teach and how I wanted to teach it, and then put flesh on the bones.  In short, I’ve learned something that I suspect Alex is not going to be happy with… I don’t think it is realistic to do your entire course ahead of time.  Absolutely, I agree a general and in fact pretty specific plan must be in place.  But to design each and every activity ahead of time doesn’t seem realistic.  Obviously some folks are able to do it.  I’m not sure I fit in that category.  In F2F teaching, I’ve found general wisdom to be that it takes 3 runs of a course before you really have it where you want it.  I suspect that is largely going to be true in online teaching also.

As far as my own courses goes, I’ve decided that structure and consistency are the most important thing I can do to help my students since every one of them will be first time learners.  I already recognize that this will require me to sacrifice spontaneity and creativity at times but I think on balance it is the right way to go.  I also find that I’m still being pulled back toward my old methods and am having a hard time reinventing my approach for the online format.  When I completed my course outline, I felt like it really resembled my traditional style course more than perhaps it should.  One of my goal is to improve on that as the course development process continues.

Finally, at the halfway point I can definitely reach a few conclusions about the course.  First – don’t ever, ever get behind.  Catching up is a nightmare.  Two, I would suggest less disparate activities.  I continue to feel like we bounce all over the place from blogs, to discussions, to written activities, to building activates, to diigo, to twitter and back.  I do feel like a few of these mediums could be condensed and streamlined.  It might feel a bit less fracture.  That’s what isn’t working for me.  What is working ultimately is that I’m learning a great deal about myself and online teaching.  The course is really living up to its name.  This has been a terrific introduction on online education.

2 thoughts on “Resisting change and learning about myself

  1. As you know i recommend that the more information you give your students about what to expect from you, when, and how and expectations you have of them, details about the course, and the activities in the course the easier this will be for you and the smoother it will be for the students. I mean very explicit redundant instructions, information, details, schedules, time frames, etc. Yes, planning that all out and following through is a lot of work and something not typically done for the conventional classroom–this is one of those differences for the online teaching and learning environment. But this up front work pays off in the long run with fewer questions and problems from the students and a smoother doable workload for you.

    You bring up an issue in your post that I love to discuss. I completely disagree with your conclusion that you have to give up spontaneity and creativity!! nothing could be further from the truth! The online course environment has to be flexible enough for the instructor to take into account volatile content or the specific needs of the specific students in a specific course. I recommend that your course be complete on the fist day of the term ….. However, I do not suggest that everything be nailed shut leaving no room for spontaneity, or class make-up, or current events, the exact opposite is true. But, to be able to pull that off in an online environment and NOT have the students confused, you need to impose a structure to the course materials and set the expectations clearly, logically, and consistently to be sure student are comfortable and feel they know what is expected of them and that they can do it.

    For example, in your course that will depend on current events or interests of the students or what ever is happening in the news that week… To pull this off you will need to design documents that explain how it is going to work, what will be expected of the students, in general and then you design your modules in a logical way creating place holder documents or documents with general topical info, that leave room to incorporate the interests or events that week. That way there is enough structure that the student knows generally what to expect and do– i.e. the walls of the classroom are there, and have form, and make sense, and are thought out with instructional documents necessary to the environment with places built for thing will occur, and it will technically function, and there is room built in to be spontaneous.

    It is bit of a paradox –that you need to have structure and design for spontaneity.

  2. Hi Alex,
    Thanks for your response. I see your point about providing structure so that spontaneity is possible. I suppose in some ways I’m tranferring my own struggles as an online student into my fears about teaching an online course. My greatest challenges has been keeping track of all the different activities going on in the course and I somehow fear that throwing anything “unexpected” in would only make the problem worse. Having said that (and I mean this with no sarcasm) you are the expert and based on that I’m going to include an area for news events in each of my modules. Thanks for the feedback(2)

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