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Promoting Online Teaching

Aug 17, 2007
While fully online courses are still in the minority, many schools, colleges and universities are including some online aspects to their teaching. Sometimes this work falls to teachers who have experience or training in online teaching. However, it is often left to those who have had no formal education in the area or those who have never experienced online learning as a student. It is unreasonable to expect these teachers to automatically pick up skills in online teaching.

Face-to-face staff development is useful, but it can be difficult for teachers to take extended time off from the classroom to attend lengthy workshops. However, if staff development is made available online, busy teachers are able to fit their professional development time into their own schedule.

As sitting in front of a screen for long periods is not necessarily conducive to study it can be useful to break the training down into small, manageable segments of around 10-15 minutes each. This time should be stated explicitly up-front so that the teacher knows exactly how much time to set aside for each learning module.

Of course, this online training should not just be all text. If this is the case it would be better to provide a book or reading list. In order to develop successful online teachers it is essential to include many examples of best practice. The online staff development can mirror the strategies and techniques we would like the novice online teacher to develop.

For example, most successful online courses make significant use of communication technologies to make them interactive rather than static. Online discussions, chat and desktop video-conferencing are some of the technologies available.

Another useful strategy in promoting online teaching is to provide access to learning objects developed by other teachers. It makes no sense for each teacher to continually 're-invent the wheel'. There are a considerable number of learning object repositories available for teachers. Large institutions might even consider developing their own repository.

A large range of items are candidates for learning objects. They can include exams, question banks, case studies, videos, mp3 files, activity sheets, simulations etc. A key factor in the success of any particular object repository is ease of searching. A teacher who is looking for a small video on the solar system should not have to wade through thousands of objects to find the required item.

Online teaching can be rewarding, but teachers need to be given adequate support in order for them to gain the necessary skills.
About the Author
Ricardy Banks is a Certified Internet Consultant with WSI and has over 20 years of experience in the IT industry. WSI Internet Consulting & Education rbanks@easywsiwebsolutions.com
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