Amy Johnson Comments on Online Teaching
During a ‘normal’ semester, online teaching is an optional class format to learn in, but with the recent COVID-19 global pandemic, an online teaching and learning format has become necessary for teachers to teach and for students to learn due the fact the pandemic stopped all live interaction in college classrooms for a period of time. In light of this, the IUPUI Center for Teaching and Learning developed more and more courses for faculty and instructors to participate in that highlight many tools that may not have been too familiar to instructors previously. Techniques for teaching and learning more successfully have been promoted, based on research and information that has been published to help with this process.
I have taught my TESM courses almost entirely online for the last 15 years, with the exception of one live class each year. Through experience, I have learned ways to better communicate and to teach online students to keep then engaged in my courses. But after realizing the significant impact to students learning almost completely online, I began exploring and taking part in some of the new opportunities developed by the Center for Teaching and Learning.
One of the best tools I have learned is to make small changes so it is easy enough to measure if a particular new method or change is working to satisfy the change sought. Some small changes, which I hope will amount to a slow change in the learning success of students, were made beginning in Summer session 2, followed by another small change for Fall, then yet another for Spring 2021. I started with by interacting more with each student by simply providing more comments to students on assignments, with the intent to show students I am present in the course. I also began giving weekly announcements that include brief summaries of assignments due, as well as what to expect in the course for the week ahead.
After taking a few more short courses, one of which is called Teaching for Student Success, I learned the importance of having a course map. A course map can be helpful in sorting out what the course learning objectives are, then forming student learning activities and assessments based on the course objectives. Explaining to students the purpose of an assignment (based on the course objectives) can help them understand what is most important to focus on as they learn.
These small changes over time have helped me connect to my students by showing them I am present in this virtual space, one that often can feel isolating. Responses from students have told me that they feel like they are a part of the class community simply in feeling connected to their instructor. They have also commented that they feel there is purpose to each assignment, rather than simply feeling some assignments are ‘busy work’ without much objective or purpose.