Online Teaching? I Felt Like Jumping Out of a One-story Building
S. Gutiérrez

Good evening colleagues,

It is a pleasure to finally join WritingwithMachines this semester.

When it comes to technology, I had always felt like a dinosaur. (My parents never allowed me to play PacMan or any other video game when I was a kiddo.) However, as an adult, I do my best to challenge myself and embrace technology because I consider myself a lifelong learner. A few years ago, I started teaching online introductory composition, using Blackboard, and I must confess it was a painful experience. (And I mean that—I felt like jumping out of a one-story building. Blackboard had so many glitches.) But lucky for me I survived.

Currently, the three campuses that I teach at, Palomar College, Mt. San Jacinto College, and MiraCosta College, have adopted Canvas. Teaching a fully online class for MSJC, using Canvas, has been a wonderful experience; students have an easier time navigating the LMS, and students ask less questions in my Q&A 24 Hour Forum. I have only had two questions since the start of the semester. Even though I do not feel knew to online teaching, after watching my colleagues, Jim Sullivan and curry mitchell’s navigation videos, I can see that I must continue to work on my course design since I realize it is missing the “cool” factor.

In Warnock’s “Chapter 1 Getting Started: Developing Your Online Personality,” I appreciated his ice breaker where he asks students about their debate topics without them necessarily sharing a standpoint (7). I will add Warnock’s idea to my Check-in Post next semester, so students start thinking about their research paper and continue the conversation throughout the semester.

What follow are four key principles I value in my online critical thinking and writing course I teach for MSJC.

Reciprocity and Cooperation among Students

In Teaching Writing Online, Scott Warnock shares what students write to test their professors and see if they are truly reading their work. “In extreme cases, students . . . test you by cutting and pasting from week to week, or by inserting nonsense in the midst of their posts,” writes Warnock. Because I value reciprocity and cooperation among students, it is critical that all students participate by replying since it is a Discussion Board Forum requirement. In my online class, every week/module requires at least two Discussion Board Forums. This week I added a Thesis Statement Workshop I do in my f2f classes since last semester I noticed that students need more practice crafting effective thesis statements. Students are expected to craft a working thesis statement and a present a revised thesis statement, based on all the feedback from their fellow classmates and myself.

Feedback

As a student, I valued my English professors’ feedback that allowed me to grow as a writer, so I do my best to present quality feedback. As a professor, I present feedback that is timely, and my students can utilize to strengthen their writing. I am the type of professor that comments while students post their work. (At times, I believe I provide too much feedback. Am I overworking myself?) And after reading Warnock, I wonder what effect I have on my students. Am I the harsh critic Warnock references? I hope not. I also input grades immediately—or two to five days after students submit their work with the exception of essays. I usually return essays with a week and a half at the most.

Learning in Community

I was able to migrate Ian Barnard’s teaching methodology, Whole-class Workshops, to the online setting. I believe this is where students shine and value each other’s writing styles. At one point in the semester, students are expected to upload or copy and paste their essays into Canvas. All students are expected to provide constructive feedback for their peers. I remind my students that they should be able to produce A work if they revise, by utilizing their peers’ feedback and my commentary. By adopting Barnard’s Whole-class Workshops in an online community, students recognize their strengths and learn from each other’s rhetorical approaches.

Humanity in the Classroom

Once I started teaching online classes, I learned I needed to reach, metaphorically speaking, inside students, so I created Metacognitive Journal Entries. These journal entries require a thoughtful reflection about their fears, the writing process, study habits, among other topics. I find that students open-up and learn that I am a professor that truly cares about them and their writing.

What follows is a video I created for you-all.