Learning how to teach online through an online course
I am taking a two-week course from a well known and reputable organization that credentials online courses (no names, but if you don't know who they are, you should). When I finish I will have some thoughts. On the good side, I plan to take the subsequent courses from the organization.
Now I am finished and will finish my reflection on it.
I don't want to use the name of the organization. Anyone familiar with online education knows who it is; hint--it's out of the University of Maryland, originally.
This organization has a certain philosophy and system of online education. It took me a couple of assignments to "align" myself with its philosophy. At first I was a little snarky about it. "I've taught online for 19 years. I was teaching online at the beginning and before online was cool. I used to create my own courses in Front Page, before there were Learning Management System programs, for Pete's sake!" After being told to redo an assignment, I said, "Ok, I'll play it your way, I get it." By the end I said, "Ok, yes, this system makes sense, I see why it works and what they are doing."
What I get from this is:
1. the concept of unlearning. This does not mean forgetting, because obviously we can't erase memories. I think of unlearning as "making space for a different schema or framework." We can hold different schema in our heads at the same time. I understand this organization's schema now. I think it is very good and worthwhile, although rigid and granular when I might look at a course more holistically.
2. the need for humility in learning. Humility is not a popular concept, but the act of putting yourself into a position to learn inherently means you submit to an authority, at least temporarily, for a larger purpose, and opening your mind to the value of what is taught. I took classes during my doctorate from people I thought were in left field and still do, but I submitted myself to them for the larger purpose of getting a doctorate. I learned valuable things from these people although I still differ from them philosophically.
3. the experience of being a student. Oh, I didn't like being told I did something wrong! It reminded me to be empathetic for my online students, whom I often tell they are wrong in some way! On the other hand, I am dealing with an online student who keeps plagiarizing and told me it was my fault and that I was ridiculous. I take lots of online MOOC type courses (which didn't pan out as the end-all of higher ed but are very useful) but this one was more tied to work so I wanted to get a perfect grade.
4. I learned about some new technologies and I saw how important alignment is.
5. The facilitators did a fine job. One of them teaches at a nearby institution and I already know her, so I think that helped.
6. I plan to take two more courses and be fully credentialed by this organization.
Now, the downsides. The LMS that this organization uses is inferior to what I am used to. I think it is open source but it shows. I really struggled with its layout and navigation, and this is from a person who has used two versions of Blackboard, Canvas, and D2L/Brightspace quite a bit. Consequently, the course was not visually rich at all. I can appreciate some of that because I have often warned about over rich-courses that require too much bandwidth, but this course was just plain boring visually.
Secondly, it was intense and time-consuming, but that's really a good thing. It makes it worthwhile and they don't want to give away their credentials. I noticed that most of the students did not keep up with the daily assignments. I spent good money on the course and wanted my money's worth.