Many of us teach in the online space, most obviously in fully online topics, but have you considered that you still teach online even with internal students?
Consider your FLO sites for a moment:
- Are you using any tools in the sites (e.g. forums, quizzes, Collaborate)?
- Do you place content on FLO in some form (e.g. lecture recordings, readings, links to websites)?
- Are there other digital technologies you use (e.g. online or mobile phone polling)?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then you are already teaching online in some way and it’s important to consider the design of your FLO site beyond being a content dumping ground!
In the classroom, we use lesson plans to guide us (hopefully!) through sessions – to clarify our role, define expected learning outcomes, and outline learning activities and expected completion times. These plans should be underpinned by our teaching philosophies and learning theories. But do you consider this approach for learning tasks in your FLO site (this being your online space)?
Think about the different roles you have in teaching. Do they include facilitator, mentor, expert, guide, motivator, motivator, assessor, administrator or some other role? During classroom teaching, we tend to take on these roles as needed, without much thought. In the online space, it’s important to plan your teaching roles according to the task/s the students have.
Planning for the teaching you do online is crucial for the learning journey to make sense to students. Nicola Parkin has written in an earlier article about the importance of being in place when thinking about design. So, go into your FLO site, just as you would into your physical teaching space, and consider how the topic flows across the teaching period.
- Is the design of your site consistent with how you want the topic to progress?
- What role will you have in different locations within your FLO site (e.g. are you the guide, the expert or completely absent in a forum)?
Reflect on your teaching presence in the FLO site. Where do your students ‘see’ you in the FLO site, or are you completely absent? It’s crucial to be visible to students in the online space. Consider some of the following ideas for online teaching presence:
- Your photo in the Welcome section
- Weekly (or regular) short videos introducing the next concept / idea / task the students have (filmed on your phone is fine)
- Regular posts in a forum on topics of interest / relevance
- Responding to student posts.
Where do the students ‘see’ each other in the site? Social presence is especially important for students who are external or can’t make it to class that often. Is there:
- a student discussion forum
- peer-to-peer activity
- any online group activities
- a Padlet wall for students to post a video introducing themselves?
Also consider cognitive presence (as opposed to a content repository). How does your FLO site challenge students with factual, conceptual and theoretical knowledge?
- Is content (both remedial and extended) easily available?
- Is the structure / flow of your site clear or does it need explaining up front?
- Are there both individual and group assignments?
- Do you have quizzes that appropriately challenge / confirm students’ understanding?
Central aspects of your online design are these presences, teacher presence, students’ social presence and cognitive presence. Think about these characteristics as we head into planning topics for summer and 2018, as a well-designed FLO site does much for student engagement both in and out of the classroom.
Written by Cassandra Hood
Lecturer in Higher Education – CILT