What skills do teachers need to teach online? Does professional development at your college look like this? Notice the teacher presenting is on the screen teaching at a distance using WizIQ live online class, while a technical person and coordinator for the faculty training is sitting at the front of the class.
Can a teacher use the same teaching techniques in a face-to-face and an online course?
Many teachers think they can teach online and face-to-face classes the same way. According to a study conducted by Park, Johnson, Vath, Kubitskey, & Fishman (2013) on Examining the Roles of the Facilitator in Online and Face-to-Face Professional Development Contexts (Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 21(2), 225-245), teachers need to cater to individual learners more online than face-to-face. In the face-to-face environments, students learn from each other and from the teacher. In the face-to-face class, they learn from the teacher and less from their peers. In a face-to-face class, the teacher can summarize the information and get immediate feedback from students’ body language on how well they understood the information.
In the online class, the teacher only knows whether the students understood or not from their writing since the teacher cannot get feedback from visual cues. Teaching online requires that the teacher be very attentive and aware of the student’s individual interests, needs, and level of understanding. Students may be more open and less inhibited to share online than in a face-to-face class, but responding and reaching the students online requires other skills.
Teachers Need Other Skills to Teach Online
A great deal of time is required to learn about the students and cater to their individual needs in an online class. Teachers need to continually ask the students to provide written feedback so the teachers know where the students are. There are no facial expressions or body language that can alert the teachers. Therefore, teachers must encourage students to express themselves in writing as much as possible so teachers can sense whether everyone is on the same page.
Writing may not suit everyone and may be difficult for some. One way to facilitate the process is to use videos instead of writing for feedback. Students can create screencasts, record their voices, and share the videos with the teacher and the other students.
WizIQ can facilitate the process of learning online. Students can schedule a live online class and provide feedback. In addition, they can share their screens, ask questions, create a PowerPoint presentation, express what they understood, and how they feel about the content. Online learning with WizIQ and other web technologies such as Moodle, Google drive, screencast-o-matic, and jing provides multiple venues via multi-media for students and teachers to communicate.
Active Online Learning
Teachers, who teach online, need to read between the lines and listen to their students very carefully because body language and facial expressions are only available in the face-to-face learning environment. Teaching online requires teachers to prompt students to take part in discussion forums and create artifacts. Active learning is a big part of online learning. Students need to be very engaged in the content, with each other, and with the teacher.
The following video recording is an example of an online class. The recording can be used for the flipped class (fully online or blended) and as a way to elicit feedback from students. The assignment for the course and the explanations may seem detailed, but detail is never enough in an online teaching/learning environment. The video recording calls students to engage in active online learning.
Technology Can Facilitate Teaching
I conducted a research study on instructor experiences with implementing technology in campus-based and online courses (blended learning) in higher education. Teachers, who used technology, claimed that it facilitated the teaching and learning process for their students, but it was time consuming. Technology has to be used correctly in order to be effective. Learning what works and what doesn’t takes time. Teachers found the learning curve on how to use web technologies effectively time consuming because not only did they have to check student response to see how effective the tools were, they also had to teach the students how to use the tools before anything else.
Online Professional Development
Teachers, who wish to teach fully online or to sense what it’s like to be in a blended learning program, need to take online professional development courses. I have created many online courses for teachers to engage them, firstly, as learners and secondly, as teachers, so they can practice both roles. Being an online learner is the first step to fully understanding what it’s like to learn online. Teachers are eager to learn how to use technology for teaching and learning, but feel lost as they attempt to navigate the online learning environment.
There are two reasons why learning from a digital screen is problematic. One and foremost is READING COMPREHENSION. Teachers do not read what’s on the page. They find reading from a screen difficult and prefer to download and print the content so they can read a physical document. I suppose habits are hard to break. Secondly, they feel over whelmed by the content on the page. There is too much going on that distracts many teachers from comprehending what they read. Many online learners associate the digital screen as a form of entertainment not a learning environment. It reminds them of television and the movies.
Navigating an online course should be easy if you’re used to Facebook, Twitter, Google plus and other social networks like Pinterest and Scoopit, but if you’re not, you will find learsning from a screen very confusing. For example, some teachers will not open a video on the page so they can receive information and move on, unless you instruct them to do so in a face-to-face class where you can take them by the hand on their computers. Teachers complain of feeling disoriented when it comes to learning how to use an online environment such a Moodle. This sense of confusion may stem from lack of motivation or inability to read from the screen.
Face-to-Face Professional Development
Face-to-face learning is very different from learning online. In a face-to-face environment, teachers can engage in professional development in and outside the class or conference. This photo was taken at the TESOL convention for English teachers in Dallas, Texas. Notice the body language. The information that you see is absent in the online environment. Online teachers need to replace the body language and socialization that goes on the face-to-face classroom with lots of explanations through visual means that include images, text, audio, and video files.
Create and Teach
Teachers can gain confidence and learn new habits of learning online. Teachers are encouraged to join online courses. They are also invited to create and teach courses online. Practice does make perfect as the skills for teaching online courses differs from those used in the face-to-face classroom. Join Integrating Technology for Active Lifelong Learning (IT4ALL) to practice while you learn: http://www.integrating-technology.org/course/index.php