Week 17: I’m still alive! ….And trying to manage my online class….
I’m back! It’s been way too long. Being in the middle of buying and selling houses caused a lot of headache and loss of sleep on my end. But I’m pulling it together and hopefully the most stressful times are over.
So, on to Classroom Management….
When I tell people that I teach online, they all think that it must be a lot easier than classroom teaching. “What? Sit in your PJ’s all day at the computer? That must be great!” What they don’t know is that, from my experience at least, online teaching takes significantly more time and work than teaching in the classroom. My online courses start the semester at between 50-55 students (and I have two online sections right now!) So, I definitely have a thing or two to learn about classroom management in order to save some time and my sanity.
Surprisingly, I am doing a lot of what Chapter 11 in our book suggests. Here’s what I am doing:
- Unform annoucement area: I send out weekly annoucements to my online students regarding the assignments and topics for that week. I leave all annoucements accessible to students for the entire semester, so they can always go back and review what was said. So far, my annoucements have come via text-based email. I’m going to try something new in the fall and go with video annoucements!
- Establishing rules and protocol for communication. I’ve always stated in my syllabus that I will respond to student emails within 24 hours (if it’s urgent), or 2 business days for non-urgent issues. However, I still had students freak out if I haven’t responsed to a question in an hour! This was the first time I created a syllabus quiz for students to double check that they understand the communication protocol. The quiz has acutally helped a lot with student emails – they are now actually signing their names at the end of the email and providing me with a class section number! Makes it much easier on my end!
- Student-Centered Discussion Questions: I pose a discussion topic each week and have students respond and discuss topics with each other. I don’t know if this really creates less work for me – as I still grade the discussion posts, but I think it really helps students connect to others in the the class. I also started having students do Blogs this semester. Those were quite interesting and I am going to expand on them for next term. Again, probably not going to help my workload, but good for course design, nonetheless.
So those are a few of the things I am doing, but there are plenty of other things I need to work on:
- Saving everything to a hard drive: I use Blackboard. I like Blackboard. But there may come a time when I need to use something else. If I don’t have everything saved on my hard-drive, I may have to reinvent the wheel, and I don’t really want to do that! Something else, that I don’t think was mentioned, was not only saving your content to a hard drive, but also downloading and saving the online grade book to a hard drive every couple of weeks too. I tend to remember to save the grade book ones or twice, but I really do need to get better about that. What if something happens and all those student grades disappear?
- Group Strategy: I haven’t tried online group work yet. I know I should give it a try, but I’m just having a difficult time figuring out “how.”
- I think the biggest thing I need to remember was in Lisa’s tips – Content isn’t a Course. I was not trained to be an educator, so this is something I am learning along the way. Just because I post my powerpoints and make students take quizzes on the book, doesn’t make my class a great course. I think this is definitely a challenge to online teaching. The publisher of my textbook offers an entire online component that students can purchase with their textbook. Our department has opted out of doing this, and I really think it’s a positive thing for students. Why would we even need instructors if everything can just be bundled up into an online package? I definitely want to make my course “my own.”
I think, in the long run, planning an effective course will save time. It’s all of the preparation in getting there that makes it so difficult! Baby steps, right?