Alana Gates shares her experience teaching online classes
As an instructor, I really wanted to make a difference in my online classes by implementing personal touches which, as a student, I felt were missing. I have experienced online education as both a student and as an educator. My first experience was a correspondence course, where students are sent reading materials and mail back the materials; I found this format to be satisfactory with regard to the industry training I was doing at the time. As a returning student, I was not a fan of my first couple of online class experiences; there was no real communication with instructors and it really didn’t appear any different from the correspondence courses I had previously taken.
I believe that students receiving an online education and paying the same amount of money as those who attend in-person classes should receive the same level of interaction with the instructor. Everyone, including me, interacts and grows together with the use of synchronous and asynchronous activities. It is important to be personal, available, interactive, responsive, supportive, caring, compassionate, and not assuming.
The first assignment I love to do is to create a casual introduction video for my class. I feel it is critical for them to know that they are not taking a class with a computer, but a real person. I then ask my students to post an introductory video to share on blackboard so that we can get to know their interests, hobbies, goals and previous education or work experience. I use this information to empower my students by explaining to them the experience they already have and the strengths they can build on. I also find this to be a valuable icebreaker for the class.
Our assignments are designed as real world/current event examples for application, not read and regurgitate. Term assignments are also designed to be relevant and useful in the future. (Compilation of real estate resources.) My experience as a realtor and as a panel member for arbitration and mediation led me to create more real world scenarios for my students to obtain a greater understanding of what really occurs. I felt that teaching students the legal, ethical and moral way to do business would reduce the number of agents in front of the panels.
I am always updating and working to improve the clarity of my syllabus and assignments as it’s important to be clear and transparent regarding the expectations for online classes. I encourage early and regular feedback from my students, and offer extra credit for error discovery; let’s face it we are all human. I learn from every class I teach. Often this is something I learn from the experiences of one of my students and sometimes it is new tools within the LMS. Teaching online definitely takes more time and effort than in-person teaching, but the rewards of being able to reach students that might otherwise miss the opportunity to take classes is worth every minute.
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