The Early Days of an Online Teaching Course

It’s day two of LI501 and all is rather eerily quiet so I would like to take some time to reflect on where I am as a tutor at this point in time. LI501 is the online teaching module that I’m currently co-ordinating at DCU. We got off to a flying start yesterday (with a three hour orientation session) and signs are very promising that this is a chatty bunch with plenty to say about their knowledge (or perceived lack of knowledge) in relation to technology. Whether this enthusiasm for talk will translate to the discussion boards remains to be seen.

We have a fantastically mixed group of schools (Business,  Health & Human Performance, Engineering, Science & Languages) were all represented. It was fascinating to hear the participants talk about why they have signed up for this course. Issues with large class sizes, differences in levels of understanding, and a desire to do ‘more’ with technology were all mentioned. But it was a feeling of lack of engagement that seemed to run through most of the comments and drove home to me how important that particular theme will be. While it is ‘officially’ due to start in several weeks, I see the activities that we engage in in the run up to that theme being highly relevant to the engagement objective too.

For my part my biggest challenge for now is to start building up that all-important sense of instructor presence and learning community. Through my meetings/conversations with the participants, the face to face session,  photos, videos, and even emails,  myself and Pip are doing our best to create a supportive and welcoming environment that invites participation. But will that be enough?

While I did emphasise the importance of discussion during my presentation, it remains to be seen if it actually occurs and I am nervous that participants just won’t engage. I should mention a ‘moment of doubt’ that occurred to me earlier. I became conscious that one of the students seemed confused about how the discussion would take place online (wondering how it would happen in reality). I think they were also wondering about when to do the discussion. As I write this I realise that I am in the fortunate position of having a video recording of my talk so I can go back and look at that and confirm what was said. Very useful indeed and since this was my first time using that camera, the benefits for both the students who had to miss aspects of the session  and for me are quickly becoming apparent. Getting over my discomfort at being recorded for this and the introductory videos will have to happen sooner rather than later  and I can see myself using more video technology for my own teaching into the future.

But for now, to go back to the question of discussion, I have made one tweak to the layout to make the discussion forums less ‘buried’ in the page. I felt I needed to make the discussion tasks very prominent so I’ve included some intro text and links to those tasks at the top of the theme to make sure participants have a clear idea of what to do when they login. That’s about all I can do for now, it’s a bit of a waiting game but for now, I’m happy to wait and see… .





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