Now that all my classes have wrapped up I’ve been thinking just how much things have changed in education over the past 10 years. First off I’m still absolutely amazed at how distance learning has evolved over the past 20 years. The tools and technology we as educators have at our disposal now have truly changed the nature of education at all grade levels. What has not changed fast enough (in my opinion) unfortunately is the mindsets of many teachers, professors and administrators when it comes to distance learning.
It seems the technology is out pacing many educational institutions and teachers at all levels. I believe e-learning is only going to continue growing and the demand for dynamic, engaging and sophisticated online courses is growing rapidly as well. We are seeing this at Community Colleges across North Carolina. In fact…online courses grew 38% this past year for the Community College System and the demand for traditional seated courses was down 1.8%. Unfortunately there hasn’t been enough aggressive / in-depth professional development for faculty to help them transition from the classroom environment to the online environment. I want e-learning to grow and prosper, yet I don’t want to see students disappointed because their online classes were not the very best they could be – I also hate seeing faculty frustrated by their lack of understanding of online teaching methodology and the various technological tools at their disposal. It seems that many excellent classroom teachers struggle with the technology itself and it gets in the way or acts as a barrier between them and their students instead of helping them deliver their course content in a engaging, seamless and interactive way.
There’s no doubt the more you teach online, the more you experiment (and practice) with the various communication tools at your disposal the better and more comfortable you get as an online instructor. There really isn’t any magic bullet. The first step (in my opinion) with 12 years under my belt is keeping an open mind and be willing to “let go” of the way you used to do it in the classroom, because the sage on the stage approach isn’t conducive for the online teaching environment. Educators have to let their online teaching style (pedagogy) evolve one semester at a time. Identify what works for you and what doesn’t and then retool your course and methodology based on past mistakes, student feedback and personal insights.
I absolutely love teaching my art and photography courses online and am always exploring new and creative ways to deliver my course material. There is so much “open source” rich media instructional content (like YouTube and ITunes U) out there that you can incorporate video, podcasts, screencasts, sreenshots and animated simulations to your courses. I personally love the challenge of teaching a concept and/or photographic/imaging technique online. Even though I’ve been doing e-learning for over 12 years I’m still fine tuning my teaching techniques and constantly exploring and investigating new and creative ways to make more courses dynamic, interesting and intellectually engaging. We as e-learning educators can never be complacent when teaching online because Course Management Systems like Blackboard and Moodle are constantly being upgraded which forces the online instructor to rethink how he/she is delivering instructional content.
Fall semester is over and Christmas is around the corner. I’ll spend some time tweaking my online courses in preparation for the Spring semester. I love a challenge and online teaching provides me with an opportunity to channel my creativity and love for art and photography via the internet from me to my students. When it comes right down to it – it’s all about the students and offering them creative and viable options and opportunities for earning their education.
I also like the fact that I can teach from anywhere in the world as long as I have an internet / wireless connection. You gotta love technology. I sure do!