In 2006 I started supporting online education as a student worker on a helpdesk. Since then I've taught online and supported online education in some capacity. Some lecturers were leaders or early adapters and needed little help, but rather the spotlight to showcase their example for their peers. Some lecturers needed support like the "wood". Some lecturers made it clear that they would never teach online unless there wasn't an option. Well.... here we are. What do we do with the "Erasers"? Now what? This group didn't want to be here in the online education realm.
Let's look back at the pencil. In 2020, almost everyone on the pencil was shoved forward at least one notch, depending on the course. For example, here at TU Delft, there are still courses that need access to a lab, thus the course may have shifted from in person to blended rather than fully shifting online.
Who Wants to Be an Eraser?
Looking at the metaphor, who really wants to be an eraser...during a pandemic...as an expert in their field?
Perhaps this is why some experts didn't grab on to online teaching earlier. Not being an expert in online teaching, but being an expert teacher might feel uncomfortable.
How do we motivate an expert to join the pack of their peers teaching online? Let's go Dutch and talk about the bicycle. Besides, a bicycle lasts longer in life and is more fun than a pencil.
Learning to Ride a Bicycle Dutch Style
Dutch parents ride next to their child with their hand on the child's back, guiding them up the hill until the child is comfortable to ride up the hill and at the speed of the pack. Similarly, lecturers less comfortable with teaching online may need more support initially until they are comfortable, but at some point, the support is no longer needed or minimally needed. On the pencil metaphor, they become "wood", if we talk about the bicycle, they join the pack.
When I support a lecturer who is new to online education, I ask them first what they use now, what they are comfortable doing, and what they want help with. After I understand their goal and their comfort level, then I explain what tools are supported. Within time, the lecturer feels the success of what they design online, and they come back ready to add more to their course and make their online course more engaging.
The First Bike Ride
The Next Level - Suit and Tie
When I first moved to the Netherlands, I quickly adapted to the bike riding life. (If you're unfamiliar with cycling in the Netherlands, check out the article: How I Learned to Cycle Like a Dutchman by Dan Kois.)
For work though, I biked in normal clothes and then changed at work. A few months into living here, my supervisor announced the next borrel (Friday drinks after work once a month). When I arrived I changed my shoes. My supervisor had a suit and tie on with nice shoes. He biked in that. Not being one to be out-done, I quickly adapted further and learned to bike in heels and my work clothes.
By observing and interacting with peers and supervisors, we adapt. Riding a bicycle is a life-long skill, as is online teaching.
Across the globe all schools, universities, and colleges are moving classes online, at least temporarily. While initial talks were about reopening the campuses as normal after a few weeks, it is clear that even when the campuses do open back up, it may be some time before we have exclusively on-campus courses again. Having a supplemented course shell with a basic structure simplifies the communication between lecturer and students as well as between students.
Take it from Ryan Weber, author of the blog post Welcome to Your Hastily Prepared Online Course, shifting an on campus course to remotely teach it with short notice brings bloopers (speaking of bloopers, here is my favorite blooper video currently).
Supplemented course shells
Supplemented course shells clearly are essential for all on-campus courses to provide structure for possible emergencies. The benefits to creating a supplemented course shell include:
What to add
The lecturer can add whatever resources they would normally share with their on-campus course in a supplement course shell, particularly resources they want to copy into a future semester. Over time the course can grow into a robust blended course. Be aware of copyright issues and check in with your local campus library if you are uncertain if you can use a resource online or if you are uncertain how to attribute the resource properly.
Students socialize on campus with peers and the lecturer. When shifting online, the socialization aspect of learning can deteriorate unless the course is designed to include social spaces. Students connect to peers, content, and the lecturer online often through discussion boards. Hopefully by now lecturers who moved on-campus courses online have found benefits to discussion boards, such as common questions and answers, group work, introductions, etc.
That year online courses became popular
2020 has presented many challenges for education in all sectors. Those already teaching online before 2020 definitely had an edge on those who have never taught online. How online courses are designed is very different from the initial 2020 remote courses which had limited if any planning. Therefore, 2020 is not the year to evaluate online education, but rather to question whether future on-campus courses can really exist without at least having a supplemented course shell.
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I'm a Learning Developer living in the Netherlands since 2018, with American and Luxembourgish nationality. This blog is dedicated to online education and originated with my take on various tools.
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