Monday, October 8, 2007

Going Into Week 8--A Midterm Reflection

I was having my doubts that students in my online class were really excited about our class and its layout.

I've been proven wrong again. (I'm enjoying learning to accept being wrong.)

For Week 7's Blog Prompt, I asked students, "What is your response to our online class thus far? What aspects are beneficial to you? What suggestions do have?" Their feedback overwhelmed me with happiness.

According to their responses, they really enjoy the class and feel it is well-organized. Additionally, they like participating on the Discussion Board and find the lecture/reading quizzes "helpful." YES!!!

The two suggestions I got were regarding peer review and wikis. Students, in general, seem resistant to peer review. But I always try to communicate that it's about learning how to apply what you've learned about writing when you read someone else's essay and that peer review teaches us to reflect on our own writing, even more so than feedback from a professor. I do agree that I could add a podcast lecture explaining the importance of peer review and how to get the most out of it, which I plan to do in all future online classes.

As for Wikis, I think students will become more responsive to them as they find Wikis more and more creeping their ways into classrooms. Out of all of the "new" technologies, I think that is the one that is the most foreign to students, and that is the reason why they resist it. I've revised my wiki Front Page by adding more explanation about wikis and a video to help students learn how to use it. Beyond that, I'm not sure what else to do to promote the effectiveness and coolness of wikis. Any ideas?

All in all, I'm quite pleased with how the ENG 111 Online class is proceeding. I have been a little anxious lately because I felt like my students were confused and frustrated with the layout and "new" technologies, but hearing that they really enjoy the class and enjoy learning about "new" technologies has really eased my worries.

I think, too, a lot of my anxiety came from this being the first time I have taught online. It's so different from face-to-face because the interaction is so limited. Adjusting to limited interaction has been a challenge for me, especially because I am a physically expressive person, but my effort to develop a personal professional relationship with each student has made a difference. I think consistent personal emails with prompt responses to questions and progress reports in addition to showing my availability through Meebo has made a big difference. Most important, though, is more clearly stating my expectations for the course. I have no doubts that is the key to a strong online course, which is why I am so excited to do screen capture lectures to explain the "new" technologies and show exactly what I expect students in the course to do each week.

The whole teaching online process feels much like when I first started teaching composition: I was excited and nervous then frustrated then reflective then revisionary then starting-to-get-the-hang-of-it then revisionary then pretty good. Online teaching is a different kind of teaching one must prepare herself/himself for. I felt prepared in terms of my syllabus, course work, and technology knowledge, but I wish I would have had more training regarding how to interact with students and help them feel part of a community like a face-to-face classroom. Don't get me wrong, IDEAL did cover student issues during training, but I suggest there be more ways of showing how to establish personal connections with students besides the Virtual Cafe on the Discussion Board. Though, this does seem like something that develops naturally over time...

I've been thinking about how Facebook creates a tight-knit community, but it seems that students already know people on Facebook--they don't go there to meet new peers. I just can't stop thinking about the possible ways online teachers could learn how to create a more personable online classroom using Facebook as an example. I'm still working through these thoughts, but I wonder what others have to say about the topic...

Overall, I'm excited that my students are excited about the online class, and I'm learning a lot from our class, which is helping me develop ENG 112 Online.

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