As an instructor for the past 18 years, with many of those years spent teaching online, I’ve found that an online class is only as good as its professor.
Often, instructors in online formats believe that posting course materials and discussion board posts each week is sufficient for students. But I have found that the online experience can be somewhat nerve wracking for students who don’t know what to expect from their instructors with each course. Some instructors are very engaged, some are less engaged, and some intend to do their best, but don’t take advantage of the technologies that are there to help improve the student experience.
Technology should not get in the way of education itself, but by using only course materials and discussion board posts, instructors are missing out on many useful tools that can enrich the online environment. Students will typically engage in online formats in which the instructor is engaged – a great instructor will lead the way.
Here are some ways instructors can improve their online instruction:
1. Use of Live Lecture Recordings
At Northeastern, we use the Blackboard learning management system (LMS) that offers Camtasia software, which allows instructors to record live lectures for their classes. Having the ability to record live video is an excellent method to communicate course expectations, clarify an assignment, and/or discuss a concept or chapter. The best part about this software is that it records all actions that you perform on your computer, therefore, you can navigate through course assignments to explain them, browse webpages or show whatever you would like to the students.
2. Collaborative Tools for Group Work
Students are used to building and working on teams in the classroom. So how can we enable them to do this online? Using collaborative tools such as Blackboard Collaborative allows students to record their own presentations. This has two benefits. Students are able to view their peers’ work in a live presentation setting, and the student is able to engage with his or her teammates to learn the essentials of presentation in an online format.
3. Hosting a Live Forum
Instructors should also have access to collaborative software to allow for a live forum.” This way, students can ask direct questions to their instructor, as well as engaging with their peers in dialogue. These sessions should be no less than 30 minutes and no more than an hour, and students will often participate if they can substitute a live session for the discussion board post.
The online instructor generally cannot mandate participation, but the incentive to participate in lieu of the discussion board requirement for the week may be a motivation within itself to join. Plus, the instructor can record these sessions so that all students can listen at their convenience.
In closing, the quality of the online experience is generally measured based on the instructor’s involvement in the course. The instructor can participate in the discussion board as students often enjoy the exchange of ideas; however, I have found that students truly appreciate instructors who provide an atmosphere that provides them with the mirror of the “traditional classroom” in a “virtual setting.”
As educators, we can certainly diminish student’s fears by providing the best possible online forum ever that will build the confidence of our students and engage students by engaging ourselves.