E-learning is in its infancy, and I believe we have a long way to go before we figure out how to get online teaching and learning just right. Since I come from a traditional, academic background, at first, I originally found it difficult to believe an online course could completely replace a face-to-face course as a viable way to learn something. When I took my first online course in 2004, I didn’t enjoy the class, and I didn’t learn much. When I taught my first English Composition online course at Gulf Coast State College in 2009, both my students and I felt frustrated. How were we supposed to discuss a work of literature together? How were my students supposed to form groups and peer review?
During the next few years, I would brainstorm new, creative ways to teach online classes. I would take a special interest in online teaching and learning and study it in my graduate Interpersonal Communication course with Dr. Sally Hastings. Almost 10 years after my first online teaching experience, after all of the trial and error, after all of the reading and studying I’ve done, and after the continuous curriculum overhauls, I know I still have a long way to go as an E-learning instructor. Teaching online has been challenging and frustrating but also rewarding in many ways.
Because an online course can often feel impersonal and isolating, my first goal as an online instructor is to find a way to create a stronger sense of community in the E-learning environment. My students are required to attend one-weekly live GoTo Training sessions and to meet with their fellow classmates live using Google+ Hangouts. I record video feedback for my students in Jing and QuickTime to increase the student-teacher relationship and the quality of their feedback. Even with new technologies, it is difficult for my students to connect with me or with their fellow classmates because of the lack of social interaction and the lack of face-to-face communication. How do we remedy this? For me, this is an important question to begin to answer. Education generally but online education specifically is one of my focus areas as a Communication graduate student. I believe we will all be searching for those answers together for a long time, and I want to be a part of the conversation.
I do have more specific online teaching goals. I want to enroll in Coursera courses to see how other online instructors engage their students and build an online community. I would love to take courses in public speaking and presentation; communication; literature; and writing since these are the kinds of classes I will be teaching now and in the future. I also want to incorporate more collaborative learning assignments in my online classes. Since discussion forums can feel very stale, I’d like to move away from the “original assignment post/response post” model and toward something more interactive and fun. I plan to accomplish this goal by brainstorming and testing out a variety of different kinds of assignments this year.