We have Gained Some Interesting Initial Insights
Production on the Learning to Teach Online project continues, and so far we had some really insightful initial conversations with academics, a Librarian and a Dean!
One of the aims of the project is to speak to as many different academics as we can from different disciplines and institutions. The reason for this is to try to capture as broad a cross-section of tertiary teachers as we can to make the advice and information we’ll be sharing as authentic as possible.
We still have a lot of traveling and interviewing to do, but what has been amazing so far is the common experiences that are emerging from speaking to different people. It seems we all have the same type of challenges when teaching online, and some really amazingly positive experiences as well. This is very encouraging, because it seems that since many of us experience the same types of issues when teaching online (or even the same types of difficulties that stop us from trying), and this means that despite differences in disciplines and applications of online learning, there is a way we can all learn from each other’s experiences.
This project hopes to open a real dialogue between educators, whether just from seeing how others overcome common challenges, or putting people in touch with each other to further discus ideas and innovations.
So far its looking very promising! We are looking forward to releasing the first group of episodes in a couple of months and getting feedback from others out there!
Don’t forget, if you are a University academic who has a successful online teaching experience – or if you want to share your views about why you think online learning doesn’t work for you, let us know so we can help create a network of knowledge we can all benefit from…
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Share Your Success with the World!
The ‘Learning to Teach Online’ project (LTTO) is based around sharing best practice in online pedagogy development, teaching and evaluation between practitioners. We want to encourage a dialogue between teachers from all disciplines, to help everyone out there who wants to start teaching online get the best advice from those who have done it all before.
No matter how many books or research papers you read about teaching online, the hardest thing to get your mind around as a teacher are the practical aspects of running a class in an online or blended environment. COFA Online’s LTTO project will explore the real pragmatics of teaching online, and help give educators the head start they need to avoid the frustrations that usually emerge in the practical details.
To this end, the project will feature case studies of successful online teaching strategies from tertiary teachers from many different disciplines. These case studies will examine the context, planning, teaching, evaluation and technical set up processes used by different teachers, and enable users of this resource to see theory and strategy in action.
How You Can Help Your Colleagues
If you have taught in a fully online, blended or mobile context at University level, and have had positive results both from a student and teaching perspective, then let us know about your project.
We can discuss how your own project may be relevant to LTTO and other teachers, and if its a leading example of online teaching excellence, we can showcase your good work to the rest of the world. Your innovation can help encourage others to start teaching online, or help improve existing online teaching practice. So get in touch and discuss your project today!
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I’ll start off by saying this blog post is NOT a ‘how to’ for community building. I have a good deal of experience with building community amongst a captive audience of students in online courses, but creating an engaging, voluntary online community is another kettle of fish, and I find myself seeking the council of those more experienced in this than I!
As part of the work I am doing for our ALTC funded ‘Learning to Teach Online‘ (LTTO) project at COFA Online, I want to establish a global online community for teachers, where they can get advice about teaching online, share their experiences, ask questions to solve their problems, and get some real help with the real nitty gritty issues that are part of the reality of teaching online. The community would also be there to supplement (read – add more depth to) the ‘how to’ videos and documentation the project will be producing.
This is both a very exciting prospect, and one riddled with anxiety and the potential whiff of disaster…
THE UTOPIAN VISION
Now in my mind this community would be a great place to drop in, where primary, secondary and tertiary teachers from any discipline, and any level of previous experience in online learning could meet each other and share the woes and success stories of teaching in any online format (fully online, blended, mobile etc). I have seen a few online communities out there that seem to gather momentum and gain a life of their own, and others that seem to wither and die with no real input from anyone. There are also other online communities out there for teachers, and some work well, whilst others, even though they have a vast amount of interesting pre-posted content, seem to fail. The difference with what I am envisioning here is that it would eventually be a large scale community, allowing the cross-over of ideas across disciplines, cultures and a myriad of teaching scenarios. It all sounds good in theory…
The LTTO project is all about sharing ideas and best practice in online learning and teaching different disciplines – trying to break past the ‘silo’ state that seems to exist in teaching practice to a large extent, by (for example) showing how the way someone teaches secondary level mathematics online can inspire the practice of a tertiary art teacher and so forth.
What I am hoping is that this concept can be taken much further with the help of the community – to increase the potential of this interaction amongst those passionate about online teaching to collectively evolve online teaching practice – to stop teachers working in isolation and provide mutual support – to provide a dissemination point of successful, proven strategies for the benefit of everyone else who is trying to achieve a similar goal…
What I am afraid of is that I’ll create another one of those communities where digital tumbleweeds will be rolling around amongst the deserted forums. I am asking for advice and tips from people out there who are involved in great lively online communities, or have established their own.
To me (and these are just my thoughts – not some kind of guaranteed list for success!) a good online community will thrive if:
- There is a direct benefit for a member to belong and contribute (or even lurk) – ie you get valuable information that encourages you to participate
- It is clear what the community is about and what its purpose is
- Members are free to create their own content and take ownership of their online space
- Members’ contributions are acknowledged and respected
- Members can gain some kind of status and authority within the community through participation
- Content cannot be too prescribed or over-moderated
- There isn’t another community out there doing the same thing better!
Now to me the tricky part of establishing a community seems to be that people will eagerly come and take a look, but unless there is some very interesting content and discussions already going on, the tendency seems to be for people to leave. It’s kind of like not wanting to hang out at party with only a few guests. This seems to be what is happening with the community (to be) I have just set loose on the world. I guess I had hoped that people would start their own conversations but I have since realised that the tone for the community had not been properly set – to give people an idea about what can be talked about, what they can expect to get out of the community and how they can contribute.
On reflection my strategy to circumvent this issue should have been be to invite certain people into the community to begin with to start interesting discussions, before promoting it to strangers. I wish I had thought of this earlier actually as it makes complete sense – you’ve got to have the cool people at your party to create a vibe that is attractive to others.
A LITTLE HELP?
I know there are many of you out there who are involved in online communities, so I would love to hear from you – all advice is welcomed, and of course you are also welcome to pop into the community I am talking about as it currently stands and say hello, or even add your thoughts as to what would be useful and relevant to you! (please remember this is in its VERY early days, so not much has happened in there yet!).
I’m all ears!
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A blog about the innovation, frustration, reality, aspirations and inspirations of online learning and contemporary teaching practices
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