E-Learning & Successful Online Teaching
Many who transition from traditional brick and mortar teaching environment into the online teaching environment have the misconception that they are the same. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Teachers making this transition need to realize that there will have to be many changes in the way that they present their lessons, interact with students, and think about the educational process in order to become successful in this new medium. The following will examine these areas of teaching and how the teacher can enhance the teaching environment and make the endeavor a success.
The adoption of the e-learning environment requires some basic changes in the way teachers think about relationships with their students. In the traditional brick and mortar classroom, the student is a captive audience. They must remain the classroom and are compelled to be in a certain place at a certain time. They are told where and how to sit. In the e-classroom the student has considerably more freedom of choice in these matters. They can get up when they wish, take a break when they wish, or even eat a snack while working. This places the student in the e-classroom in a different mind set than the traditional brick and mortar classroom allows. This also places the teacher in a different mind set as well. The e-classroom is much more relaxed than the traditional brick and mortar classroom setting.
Student-teacher roles are different in e-classroom than in the traditional brick and mortar classroom. In the brick and mortar classroom the teacher presents information to the students. The students act as recipients of the information. They have little choice as to whether they wish to receive the information, or in the format that is chosen to present it. In the e-classroom, the student takes an active role in seeking the information (Sweeney, 2005). They must choose to turn on the computer, open the lesson and to engage in the learning plan. In the e-classroom, the student is a willing participant, who must first seek to learn the information. It is much easier to avoid turning on the computer, than to cut class in the traditional brick and mortar classroom.
The student must take a more active role in learning process when engaged in e-learning (Arsham, 2007). Rather than having the information presented to them in a lecture style, the student must take an active role in seeking information and exploring answers. They must examine websites and take online quizzes. They must ask question of the teacher if they do not understand something. The teacher cannot make inferences as to if they are being understood by the expression on a student’s face. The student must be the one to initiate communication if they do not understand something.
These basic differences are the key to understanding that although the e-learning and brick and mortar settings are similar in many ways, they require a different mindset, both on the part of the teacher and on the part of the student. Understanding these differences is the key to beginning to develop a successful e-learning experience for both the teacher and the student. Not all teachers or students are suited for the e-learning environment. The teacher must be willing to give more power to the student and the student must be able to take more responsibility for the learning process. Both student and teacher must be willing to recognize that learning in this environment is a partnership that differs from traditional teacher-student roles.
Changing Lesson Plans
In addition to recognizing that the roles of the teacher and student must change in order to create a successful e-learning experience, the teacher must also realize that what works in the brick and mortar classroom does not necessarily translate online. Transitioning a lesson plan to the e-learning environment requires that the teacher take a look at the presentation and decide if it will work online. The content does not have to change, and in many cases, cannot change due to state educational requirements. However, the manner in which the material is presented must change in order to be effective.
It is not enough to simply copy text to the screen (Arsham, 2007). In order to effectively translate material to the e-learning environment, the teacher must be able to put themselves in the student’s place. They must pretend that they are not the sender of the message, but instead the receiver. They must take a critical work at their presentation from the student’s perspective in order successfully to transition classroom material into the e-learning environment.
One of the key points to consider in translating material in into the online classroom is an awareness of the senses that are used to receive and process the information (Broadbent, 2002). For instance, in the traditional brick and mortar classroom, the student primarily receives information through hearing and sight. The same can be said for e-learning classroom as well. However, there are other classroom experiences that are used to enhance certain subjects, such as science that engage the other senses. For instance, a science experiment might use the sense of smell or touch. These experiences are difficult to translate into the online world.
One could make a video of an experiment, but this would still only encompass two senses. If one wishes to provide the student with the full sensory experience of the classroom, there are only a limited number of ways to achieve this task. One could have the student run the experiment at home, but there are limitations in the ability to do this. For a simple experiment, using common household items, this may be possible. However, if the experiment requires specialty equipment or compounds, the student will not be likely to experience the full sensory lesson. This is only one example of a lesson that may not translate well into the online classroom.
Translating the full classroom experience into the online setting requires creativity on the part of the teacher. They must often improvise in order to provide the maximum experience possible. The online teacher must often work harder to engage the student in a way that goes beyond simple printed text and reading material. Visual aids and films are an excellent way to bring some of the lessons to the online environment. However, one must be careful to create them in such as way that entices the student to listen and engage in active, rather than passive learning. Two excellent websites that meet this goal are http://www.brainpop.com/and http://www.studyisland.com/.
Interacting with Students
One of the greatest changes in transitioning from the brick and mortar classroom to the e-learning environment is the way in which students and teachers interact. In the brick and mortar classroom, students and teachers have many more ways to communicate than with voice and written communication. They communicate with body language, gestures, and facial expressions. In the online environment, many of these forms of communication are not available. Advances in the past several years have leaned towards developing ways of communicating online that mimmick these personal experiences. For instance, we now use emoticons to represent emotions and other elements of communication that are missing from the online experience, but these still cannot replace the real thing.
The online teacher must work especially hard to develop the type of personal relationship with her students that the brick and mortar teacher has. This is not impossible in the online world, but it does take extra effort. Online chats, white boards, and webcams can provide many of the missing elements of the personal experience. However, there may be limitations that prevent the teacher or the student from accessing this technology. The technology may be cost prohibitive, or the digital divide may be in the way (Broadbent, 2002). Some students might not be technologically advanced enough to operate the equipment, or they may not have access to the equipment at all.
Where advanced technology is available, it is adds a valuable personal level to the lessons and other material. However, in absence of this technology, the teacher and student must make an extra effort to develop personal relationships. Personal relationships are an important part of the learning experience. In order to keep it personal, we must sometimes remember not to get so caught up in the technical aspects of the lesson that we forget the person behind the screen.
Adding personal notes to the graded work or other emails can help to maintain these valuable relationships. For instance, instead of just saying, “You received a 98% for that assignment,” one might add something about what the student did on the weekend. These conversational elements are natural in face-to-face communication. However, one must make a conscious effort to include them in the online environment. These elements are essential in order to develop the types of relationships that make the online educational experience a success.
One of the most difficult elements of the brick and mortar classroom to translate into the online environment is the element of classroom discussion and debate. Group activities play an important role in the classroom. However, learning in the e-classroom typically takes place on an individual level, with students in different buildings and settings. With some effort, these elements can still be, and must be, a part of the student’s classroom experience. The teacher can facilitate this type of interaction with some planning and ingenuity.
Online debates can take place in chat rooms or through video-conferencing software such as elluminateLive!, a web conferencing tool specifically designed for the e-learning environment. The teacher can simulate the one-on-one interaction that is present in the brick and mortar classroom. There are many elements that are similar to holding classroom debates and activities that are similar to the brick and mortar classroom. It is important to establish the ground rules of the discussion and make certain that students are polite to one another. The teacher must act as moderator and make certain that the students keep to the topic. As with the brick and mortar classroom, the teacher might have to take an active role in making certain that all students are engaging in the conversation and the no one is being left out. Teachers should encourage interaction between the students in forums and chats outside of the classroom in order to build comraderie among the students.
The e-learning environment can be a challenging venue for both the teacher and the students. The reason for the suggestions chosen in the powerpoint presentation stem from those with considerable experience in the online learning environment. Online learning is not new and there are many successes and failures that can help both teachers and students learn how to make the most of the opportunities that the online environment represents. Many of these suggestions focus on the need to maintain relationships and the extra effort that it takes to do so. Learning from the successes and mistakes of others is the most important element in the design on an online learning environment. These suggestions will help teachers devise a program that will be optimal for their student’s learning success.
The Secrets of Successful Online Teaching
Powerpoint Presentation Outline
A. Common misconception – Teaching is teaching regardless of venue, there is no difference between the online and brick and mortar teaching environment
B. Online teaching differs from brick and mortar teaching in several ways
1. Requires different view of teacher-student relationships
2. Teachers must adapt lesson plans to the online environment
3. Developing personal relationships requires effort
C. There are ways that the teacher can manage the transition to the online environment successfully.
II. Changing Relationships
Several differences between the brick and mortar and online environment
Brick and mortar a. students are “captive” in the classroom b. based on authoritarianism and structure c. can place students and teacher in adversarial power position d. students are recipients of the information e. power structure unequal – teacher has more power than student f. student expected to be compliant to teacher’s requests
2. Online environment a. students are free to move about as they please b. more relaxed environment, less structured c. enhances the idea of education as a cooperative endeavor, or partnership d. students must actively “seek” information e. student and teacher have more equal power f. student must initiate questions if they do not understand material
III. Changing Lesson Plans
What works in the brick and mortar classroom does not necessarily translate to the online environment.
Elements that are common to both the brick and mortar and online classroom written content audio content primarily uses sight and hearing to convey the material
Elements present in brick and mortar classroom that are difficult in the online environment sensory input such as touch or smell interactive, hands-on learning experiences physical cause and effect activities
D. Ways to translate sensory content into the online environment
1. Example – science experiments a. have student do experiment at home
1. may not be possible due to expense
2. may not be possible if specialized material required
3., digital divide may pose technical difficulties
4. advantage – student gets actual sensory experience b. movie or video clip of experiment
1. advantage – accessible to all students
2. disadvantage – student must rely on imagination of description of sensory experience
3. Teacher must rely on description of sensory experience
4. Not as good as in person
E. Material must engage students, keep their interest, and elicit response
1. Reading only content will not be likely to keep student attention
2. Engaging material makes the lesson fun and helps to keep interest of student
3. Websites that do an excellent job of engaging students a. Brain pop
http://www.brainpop.com / b. Study Island
IV. Interacting with Students
Personal relationships are most important element to the learning process
Difficult in the online environment for several reasons
Lack of body language, facial expressions, other nonverbal language emoticons can help, but not the same teacher and student must work hard to engage in effective communication
Suggestions to enhance online communication online chats white boards video conferencing and web-cams software such as eliminateLive!
Technology can be used to simulate classroom experiences advantage – can be used in similar fashion as live classroom interaction advantage – can stimulate one-on-one communication between classmates advantage – provides social interaction disadvantage – some students might not have access disadvantage – some students might not have access to technology
Suggestions to enhance online relationships add personal notes to required assignments and graded material offer encouragement, just as one would in the classroom pretend the student is right in front of you and you are talking to them in person don’t forget to use emoticons, etc. To represent nonverbal communication.
A. Most challenging aspect of e-learning environment is keeping personal relationships
B. Relationships are an important part of the learning process
C. Translating lessons into the e-learning environment requires creativity
D. Hurdles are not impossible to overcome, if you keep a few of these simple suggestions in mind.
Arsham, H. (2007),. Impact of the Internet on Teaching and Learning. Retrieved September 17, 2007 at http://home.ubalt.edu/ntsbarsh/interactive.htm.
Brainpop.com. (2007). http://www.brainpop.com/
Broadbent, B. (2002). The ABCs of e-Learning, Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer. San Francisco, Ca.
Publishers; ISBN: 0-787-95910-3; 2002
ElluminateLive! (2007). http://www.elluminate.com/
StudyIsland (2007). http://www.studyisland.com/.
Sweeney, L. (2005). Guidelines for Being a Good Online Student. The Learning Center Newsletter. Retrieved September 7, 2007 at http://www.learningassistance.com/2005/august/onlineguidelines.html.
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