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Teaching Courses Online: Myth vs. Reality

Mythbusters logoCheri Crabb and Ben McFadyen, academic technology consultants in Teaching and Learning Technologies (TLT), and Victoria Shropshire, an English instructor, led a “myth-busting” session about teaching online courses at the Lilly South Conference in Greensboro earlier this month.

Their session addressed some of the common questions and concerns that faculty have in teaching online, provided guidance on ways to overcome those concerns, highlighted some of the benefits of teaching online, and showcased the ways that TLT collaborates with faculty to build and adapt strong, effective online courses.

Some highlights of the session included:

Creating an effective course

During the session, some instructors were afraid that an online class wouldn’t be as educational or interactive as a face-to-face class. An online environment can still have the engaged, hands-on learning and the sense of community that Elon classes provide. Cheri recommends developing coursework and assessments that emphasize making applications and synthesizing rather than memorization.

Victoria Shropshire presentingNew online faculty ask if most assignments and tests transfer easily to the online environment. “While you can do that, it’s more effective if it’s massaged for online,” said Cheri. “For example, if the assignment was to summarize research articles and post to the discussion board and then discuss in class, modify the assessment so that it has analysis and synthesis components to discourage cheating and encourage student reflection and connectivity to materials.”

Blogs and discussion forums can help build comfortable, supportive class discussions online.  Cheri suggests using ice-breakers in an online forum to help students know that they can access each other.

Overcoming concerns

The conference session also addressed faculty concerns about teaching online, and modifying a face-to-face course for a new environment.  Creating or adapting an online course initially is time intensive, but once the course begins (unlike face-to-face) the majority of work is completed.

Some faculty are also concerned about using advanced technology online. Online courses can be delivered and managed through simple technology. However, those who are proficient with Ben and Victoria present at conferencemore sophisticated programs can easily implement them into an online course.

“Stick with technology in an online program that you’re comfortable with,” recommends Cheri.

Benefits of teaching online

On the plus side, Cheri said, faculty can “teach anytime, anywhere, even in your pajamas!”

Teaching an online course requires extensive preparation, but less of a time commitment once the course is launched.  For those who are proficient with more sophisticated technology, it’s easy to incorporate Skype, blogs, wikis, social media and more into an online course.

Interested in teaching online?

Ben McFadyen presentingTeaching and Learning Technologies works closely with faculty to adapt courses for the online environment. If you are interested in using more technology in your classroom, please contact TLT at 336-278-5006 or tlt@elon.edu.

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