Adventures of a Technology Challenged Online Instructor

Have you ever really stopped to think about pedagogy?
Have you ever really stopped to think about pedagogy? avatar

I’ll admit it, I haven’t given much thought about what my pedagogy really is (especially for my online courses).  I wasn’t trained as a teacher, and I base most of my teaching off of what I experienced as a student (nearly 20 years ago…there wasn’t much “technology” involved back then other than an overhead projector!).  So taking the time to think about what MY goals as a teacher are has brought up a bit of insecurity and more questions than answers.

I took the Beginner’s Questionnaire and scored a relatively high number (a 14).  I wasn’t surprised when the results said that a high number means that your pedagogy is more based on presentation and demonstration.  I come from a science-based background where everything except lab courses were all based on lecture and demonstration.  Plus, I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to the classroom.  I constantly prepare in my mind what my next steps are and what I’m going to say in class, so the idea of an hour-long class without an outline of what exactly I’m going to cover is frightening.  I’m trying to step away from this a bit in my “on ground” class by having more small group interactions and large group discussions, but it’s difficult for my “Type A” personality to fully commit to a more organic approach.  And honestly, I’m a bit perplexed on how this would work in an online course setting.

I do have my online students answer “Discussion Board” topics each week and respond to fellow students in the class, but I have yet to fully understand how I can translate group work that I have my on-ground students do to the online setting.

On to the “Getting Started Chart”….I feel like my on-ground (and to a small extent my online) course is a combination of lecture and discussion/groupwork.  I divide my semester into “Units” that are approximately 4-5 weeks in length.  Each Unit consists of similar topics.  For example, I have a Unit that covers relationships, sexual health, pregnancy, and STDs.  Within each Unit, I break down the material into 1 Week segments that correlate to 1 Chapter from the text.

I utilize the Blackboard CMS for both my online and on ground classes.  Students have access to all the material in a given Unit at once.  And can find material broken down by week.  So, all powerpoint slides, assignments, discussion topics, and any other material is all located in the folder for the week.  I find this works well for me and students seem to like the ease of use and the organization of the Blackboard site.

I haven’t tried Moodle or any other form of CMS, because I feel like Blackboard works well for me.  Although, I would at least like to “play around” with Moodle to get a feel for it.

I guess my biggest question, is how do you create a more connected online environment that includes things like group work?  Although my online students are at least able to interact with each other in the weekly discussion board, I’d like to create more of a learning community for my online students.  So where do I start?



6 Responses to “Have you ever really stopped to think about pedagogy?
Have you ever really stopped to think about pedagogy? avatar

  1. Jim Sullivan says:

    Cool question–Melissa.

    We will get to this topic later, but I think you want to start with what would you have groups do onsite. In other words, what about group work fits with your discipline in a setting you know better. Then we can think about what transfers and the tools that will help you do that.

    For example, I like students to provide peer feedback on drafts, so in online settings I have them work in groups of four looking at each others draft in a group discussion in blackboard. The writer gets credit for posting a draft and the reader gets credit for responding constructively using our rubric.

    In literature, I want students to respond to and analyze passages of literature, so in small groups each students needs to post a passage and then respond at least one to those posts put up by other group members.

    I also like to have students create shared documents in google docs for group projects.

    So, there you have three ideas, but what you need to think about is not so much what you can do as what you want to do and how to make that happen online.



  2. Thanks Melissa. Your post was a good experience for me. Also I think I have to introduce, now in my mind, small groups discussions.

    See you online.

  3. jean proppe says:

    Hi Melissa,

    Great post! I don’t think the goal of this course is to change the fundamental way we teach, but it is to hopefully enhance it, especially online. I also plan out quite a bit of my weekly lessons and the tools and concepts I have learned through this program have greatly aided my planing and given me additional levels of creativity for both my online and face-to-face courses.

    Group work is always a bit daunting to me, so the suggestions I have learned here have helped quite a bit. I must admit that although I do group work with my F2F courses I have not yet incorporated it into my online courses. I am brainstorming some ideas though for this Spring. As Jim mentioned the topic of group work will be addressed in a future week, but try to imagine how a F2F group activity might work online for starters.

    Best wishes,

  4. Hi Melissa, I’m from a science background too and my university education was pretty much all listening to lectures with hundreds of other students, and lab work.

    I thought you might be interested in the work of Eric Mazur – the Harvard physicist – who is passionate about peer interaction, i.e. the role of interaction and collaboration in learning and teaching. I attended an online ‘lecture’ by him last week and blogged about it here –

    He does not address online teaching specifically, but he does address how to get away from the traditional ‘lecture’ format.

    Anyhow – just thought I would share this in case it is of interest and you haven’t already come across his work.


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