Many of us teach in the online space, most obviously in fully online topics, but have you considered that you have already been teaching online even with your 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!
Start by reading the Teaching Online Guidebook. This invaluable resource will step you through what it means to be an active teacher while giving advice on how to communicate, assess and give feedback online.
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, 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, especially with students not on campus?
- 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 – this is crucial if you are not seeing your students face-to-face)?
Reflect on your teaching presence in the FLO site – this may be the only place they see you now. 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 now that they may not be able to come to class.
- a student discussion forum
- peer-to-peer activity
- any online group activities
- a way for students to post a video / picture 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? You probably used to do this in person during lectures or tutorials.
- 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 this changing face of teaching, 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