A three-year review of concerns about online teaching was conducted at Oklahoma State University. The resulting article, “Exploring Online Teaching: A Three-Year Composite Journal of Concerns and Strategies from Online Instructors,” speaks eloquently to what faculty worry about when teaching online courses and how they address these concerns.
The authors (Lin, Dyer, and Guo) explore the challenges facing online instructors in the trenches and suggest approaches for addressing those challenges in online teaching. They categorize these challenges as:
- Concerns about Self–concerns about teaching adequacy and survival
- Concerns about Task-concerns about instructional duties and management
- Concerns over Impact-concerns about student learning.
(Source: Article citation below. Above quote from page 4)
Concerns about Self
Rightly so, instructors new to online teaching have legitimate concerns about the adequacy of their teaching ability, whether they can cope with handling an online class, and whether teaching online will necessitate substantially more time on task.
Journals from online instructors in this study reveal an almost universal belief that preparation for online teaching was more time-consuming than traditional teaching. Among the many recommendations in this section include: careful planning and structuring for the online course; becoming familiar with all the features of the course management system; using a range of media and technologies; diversifying assessment techniques; and introducing a new tool per semester to avoid technology overload.
Concerns about Task
Online teaching requires mastering tasks common to traditional teaching including: classroom management, teaching strategies, creating course content, and structuring the course. These duties are mediated via a learning management system (LMS) and other tools, all requiring learning — and preferably — mastery. For example, does an instructor have the ability to do a screen capture, create an interactive syllabus, or moderate an online discussion? These skills, among many, enhance an online course.
Recommendations for this section include: Carefully moderating online discussions and providing feedback to students; requiring students to post twice for each online forum; creating a FAQ for the course; using tracking tools in the LMS to ensure students are keeping up with the work; and creating rubrics for grading. Given the pace of change within the educational technology marketplace, instructors will need to upgrade their skill set in a systematic and ongoing manner.
Concerns about Impact
All conscientious instructors want their students to learn. Ensuring that learning is taking place in an online environment poses additional challenges for instructors. Getting to know your students’ abilities online, assessing their work, and measuring their progress are concerns that seem more daunting online.
Recommendations for these impact issues include: creating a syllabus quiz; developing collaborative, engaging projects; conveying passion for what you teach; sending out weekly emails to keep students on task; and keeping a reflective journal on your teaching practices for future course revisions.
This study presents a wealth of common-sense advice and problem-solving strategies by online instructors. I believe that the findings from this study can be useful for faculty developers and instructional technologists throughout higher education. Given the enormous challenges of teaching today– and the additional challenges of teaching online– faculty need real direction and support in this undertaking. As increasingly online teaching and learning enter the higher educational mainstream, articles like this point the way to articulating and addressing the real concerns of online faculty.
Lin, H., Dyer, K., and Guo, Y. (2012), “Exploring Online Teaching: A Three-Year Composite Journal of Concerns and Strategies from Online Instructors,” Online Journal of Distance Learning Administrators, Vol. 15, Issue 3 (Fall 2012).
Retrieved from: http://www.westga.edu/~distance/ojdla/fall153/lin_dyer_guo153.html