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How AOTF Changed My (Online Teaching) Life

I know we are only a few days into the Summer 1 term, but I can already tell that the changes I made to my online course as a result of my participation in the Advanced Online Teaching Fellows program back in January have drastically changed the way I view online teaching.

At the beginning of that program I was asked about my views on online teaching, especially relevant to how I viewed face-to-face teaching.  I was very confident in my answer: I much prefer face-to-face teaching.  After all, it is physically being in the classroom that allows me to interact with the students – the part of teaching I love – so I much prefer face-to-face teaching.

As a part (and only a part – there are numerous other changes that I have made to this course!) of getting my course ready for the Quality Matters (QM) review, which is one of the main goals of the AOTF program, I changed my upper-level online Psychology course so that it no longer just mimicked my face-to-face course.  To be more specific, in my face-to-face course students participate in online labs, complete clicker quizzes and take four exams.  So, in my online course I asked students to participate in online labs, chapter quizzes and take four exams.

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But, now, students participate in online labs, complete chapter quizzes and participate in numerous discussions.  A minor change, right?   That’s how I saw it.  So, at the end of the program when I was asked about my views on online teaching, I, again, was very confident in my answer: I much prefer face-to-face teaching.

But now I am actually teaching my online course and I am able to confidently say I like the online teaching experience and the face-to-face teaching EQUALLY.  And I wonder whether, at the end of the four-week course, whether I might even like teaching online more than face-to-face teaching.

Why?  Well, in my first attempt at including discussion forums, I am amazed at the student insights and thoughtful reflections that are posted in response to the prompts I offer and I am fascinated with the interactions and discussions of the course material that is going on between students.  Students in my face-to-face class are not asked to discuss issues like this and, even if they were, the course is too big for me to check in with every student to see how they view a given topic.  Online discussion forums allow me to do just this and, quite honestly, I feel as though this course is less of a “distance education course” than the “distance” that exists between me and my students in the classroom!

Joanne Dolan, the Instructional Design Coordinator who leads the AOTF (and the Starter OTF) program, helped me formulate and input into D2L a rubric to be used to score the numerous (i.e., 40 students x 3 posts – initial post + 2 replies = 120 posts/discussion forum).  With this – I can easily provide feedback where needed and grade efficiently!  I’ve also learned from her that I, as the instructor, do not have to respond to every post but, instead, can comment, where appropriate, on those posts or discussion threads that contain inaccuracies or where there seems to be some confusion.  I also point out those posts or discussions that I thought were particularly thoughtful, insightful or well written.  Thus, my role is not to answer every comment or question, but instead to facilitate discussion between students.

Needless to say, I am enjoying teaching online this summer much more than I ever have and I am grateful to the AOTF program for giving me the opportunity to spend time redesigning my online course!

Jennifer LanterJennifer Lanter,
Director of CATL

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