The past ten weeks, I’ve been participating in Powerful Learning Practice’s Teaching Online and Blended Learning eCourse. I had taken this same course a few years ago, but at that point in my life, I wasn’t able to really focus on it. I had just started teaching my first online course, was struggling with the transition from face-to-face 5th graders to online adults and I had a newborn at home, so I felt like I was just keeping my head above water that point. While I followed along and read the resources, I was not activity engaging with other participants or the content.
So when I had the chance to take it again I was really excited. My confidence as an online instructor has grown quite a bit since that first class and I was feeling that it was time to shake things up and make some changes to my courses, so this opportunity couldn’t have come at a better time.
Now that the class is coming to an end, we were asked to reflect on all that we earned and have changed so far because of this course.
- It’s ok to share about yourself. I was always worried about being professional, but I think I was too worried so I wasn’t sharing enough about myself to help build a community. While the participants who took multiple classes with me got to know me, if someone just took one class, I don’t think they got a clear picture of who I was.
- The importance of community. While I’ve always known this was important, I didn’t think it was possible to do with two week courses. My thinking has shifted to the idea that I’m going to build in more community building exercises, even if we don’t have the opportunity to build deep relationships, connections will be made.
- Use a Variety of Media. While I tried to do this in my 5th grade classroom, I fell back on text heavy content with my courses. Even myself as a learner, I never read everything, so I need to keep this in mind when developing my classes.
- Clarified my Philosophy of Learning. By focusing on how I believe people learn, I’m able to create courses and assignments that support that belief.
Changes I’ve made so far:
- I created a visual calendar that shows the whole course, allowing participants to get the “big” picture of assignments and timing of everything.
- I developed a new syllabus that not only incorporated the assignments and important information, but my goals as a facilitator. I also tried to make it interactive by using Google Docs to include a table of contents to navigate the document and encourage the use of the commenting feature.
- I added some community building activities to the asynchronous course space.
- When I needed to address a question that came up after a live meeting, rather then type out a long explanation, I created a video to share my thinking and a new assignment.
- I added a KWL chart to kick off my course, while this seems so simple, it gave me a clear picture of my participants goals and knowledge. I always asked them to share in a discussion space, but I got a lot more out of them by using the KWL chart. Since I created the chart in Google Docs participants were able to comment on each others which lead to more sharing and conversation.
- I shared more about my background initially in meetings and was more open in general throughout live meetings and in our course spaces.
My Plans Moving Forward:
- Utilize all of the resources and ideas moving forward as I redesign my past courses and create new ones.
- Focus on community, make an effort to contribute to the larger online educational community by sharing, commenting and reflecting.
- I want to think about assessment, since I am in the situation where most of the time I do not provide a grade to participants, I want to develop a system of feedback that encourages growth and self-assessment and reflection.
I can’t recommend this class enough to all teachers. It energizes you, encourages you to think deeply about your practice and your goals as a teacher.
Thank you to Sheryl and all of the other participants that made this such a rich learning opportunity. I learned from everyone through the sharing of stories, experiences, resources and all of the questions asked that pushed my thinking a little further.