This week’s reading in Ko and Rossen’s Teaching Online: A Practical Guide brings the POT Cert course to Chapter 10, which is entitled “Preparing Students for Online Learning”. Here, I think they might wisely add “and Preparing for Students in the Online Learning Environment”, as ascertaining student readiness seems like only half of the equation to me. Equally, the tutor needs to sufficiently prepare the online learning environment for the students. For me, this means both in terms of functionality and in terms of fun.
Often, it seems that instructors spend too much time and energy answering queries and providing technical support for matters that could reasonably have been identified beforehand. Yet, at the same time, the students themselves might not only be ill-prepared in terms of the specifications of their technology and technological know-how, but they might also be generally unaware of what’s expected of them in an online environment. Therefore, in order to avoid the situation where a student cannot operationalise the required plug-in or is troubled to learn that collaboration with their peers is an expected part of the course, it seems prudent to concomitantly prepare both an orientation programme for the students and to think through any potential technical difficulties that may arise in order to get yourself ready for them. With regards to this, Ko and Rossen outline the elements to be included in an orientation programme (p. 293):
Elements of a Student Orientation Programme
- General introduction, including expectations for online students
- Requirements for computer equipment and software
- Computer skills required
- Introduction to the course management software or other programs that will be used to teach the class
- A first assignment that requires students to demonstrate some familiarity with the software being used. E.g: fill in the template of a basic web page or blog with some biographical data and an optional photograph.
Such orientation, say Ko and Rossen, “will complement the work you put into designing your course and syllabus” (p.290).
At this point, they also emphasise the early establishment of teacher presence, “you must establish a presence and rapport in your classroom that are evident to students as soon as they walk through the online classroom door” (p. 299). This remark seemed to leap off the
page screen. Just try stopping me, was my natural reaction, and at this point I began to get all excited about the prospect of welcoming learners in to my online classroom. I think I’m congenitally disposed as it were to welcoming folks the minute they walk through the door. I was brought up in a traditional pub; it’s just what you do. Hence, for me teaching online would be akin to hosting a fun learning event, and I hope that I can not only convey this zest at the start of the course but to have successfully delivered it by the end. In which case then, I had better make a good job of preparing learners for the experience and of anticipating any technical glitches before they arise.
Taking Ko and Rossen’s advice, and adhering to this week’s POT Cert brief, I have started to make an FAQ file of potential sticking points within the course. Here is an outline so far:
- Browser requirements
- Internet speed requirement for watching videos
- Computer requirements for participating in optional synchronous communication such as Google Hangouts etc.
- Instructions and links for downloading necessary software plug-ins
- An introduction to blogging and the specific class blogging platform, plus the features of the platform required for participation in the class
- An introduction to social networking and the specific social networking applications required for participation in the class
- An introduction to collaborative writing and the specific collaborative writing platform(s) required for participation in the class
Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/36778932@N00/1276763134/
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