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Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

March 22, 2010 2 comments

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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March 16, 2010 9 comments

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.


The Situation

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!

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT THE LTTO PROJECT!

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Can learning online be a more ‘human’ experience than learning face-to-face?

July 10, 2009 13 comments

Let me start by saying “I definitely think so”!

Well, I have started this blog to hopefully generate some interesting discussion about the issues surrounding the design, implementation and management of innovative, successful and appropriate online learning and teaching strategies for teachers today. This is my first post!

I have been teaching collaborative design related courses online for about 8 years now, and it has been a constant learning curve. However I have to say that my most rewarding teaching and learning experiences have been online, and if my students are telling the truth, the same can be said for many of them.

For me this has been a great source of interest – given that many academics (and students) still feel that elearning is an isolating, inferior, cost cutting, lazy way of teaching. Teaching online is just like any other form of teaching – it can be done well, and it can be done, erm, let’s just say ‘not-so-well’. For many years online learning suffered a poor reputation from many institutions throwing up poorly conceived content, usually in the form of course notes or lecture powerpoints, with no thought of how to engage and motivate students in this new environment. Anyway this is an old story so I won’t go into detail now, the point is that many teachers still don’t know how to effectively teach online, and this in turn results in dissatisfied students, crying that their online course is some kind of cop out by the institution – in fact a year or so ago, the students at my own institution rated their online learning experience so poorly that an entire department was axed and the whole approach to online learning reconsidered.

Back to the point of this post though. I have developed, supervised and taught in an online masters program since 2007, after teaching various online electives before that at undergraduate level. Students are participating from all around the world, and from a range of different disciplinary backgrounds. Interestingly, the age ranges of these students is an equal spread from around mid twenties to mid sixties, and most students have never learned online before, nor used many social networking tools (yes I was surprised too!).

I have been continually blown away at the level of interaction between the students, and the depth of the relationships that they form with each other in the course of their learning. I have NEVER seen my students invest so much of their personality, knowledge and experience into a class as I have seen in this online environment. They tell me (through informal online discussions, and in formal evaluation reports) that they have gotten to know and trust their online classmates better than any they have known in a traditional face-to-face learning environment, and I have to say so have I (I can remember everyone’s name for one thing, whereas in a face-to-face class I would master this task 2 weeks from the end of semester!).

The reasons for this I think are varied, but primarily I think this has to do with the following:

  • The feeling of anonymity that comes with interacting from behind a screen
  • Everyone gets the chance to contribute equally – no time limits or confidence problems speaking in front of a crowd
  • The design of the assessment tasks – focusing upon collaborative process and idea generation
  • Most interestingly – students’ preconceived reactions to a person’s age, sex or appearance and even disability are eliminated, meaning the social dynamics are more equitable

I have found that the willingness for students to help each other and share knowledge is much higher than in a normal classroom where social cliques are more prevalent. Of course a lot of thought has to go into the course design and the teaching/moderation of the course in order to foster a good level of interaction and trust, but I have found that the natural inclination of students in this course has been to be open, honest and high contributors on the whole.

In short I have found my online teaching to be a much more ‘human’ experience than any face-to-face teaching I have done before. I have gotten to know my students better, and have seen the trust they share with each other deepen improve their learning outcomes.

I would love to hear from other online teachers out there about their thoughts on this, have you found something similar with your online students? Why do you think this is, and how can we enhance our teaching practice to maximise the potential of the social dynamic it creates?

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