I’m a wee bit tardy in posting this one, but given the rise in online and virtual schooling available I think it is incredibly relevant to consider as both a student and a teacher. I started taking online courses when I came back to college as an adult student who has a family and works. Being able to take fewer classes on campus means I have that much more time at home which is a huge consideration when you have a family.
Here’s what I have noticed with what I felt were successful online class environments: variety, clear expectations and engaging instructors. These classes presented materials in a variety of ways. One class has powerpoint style presentations with embedded music samples, images and clickable links. You could even download the music to keep in your music library. The assignments were varied and the expectations for assignment due dates, exams and projects as well as the availability of the instructor were clearly spelled out from the beginning.
Another class had textbook reading, workbook materials to complete, panopto lectures, reports and face to face exams. The instructor also provided a variety of different materials to aid in review for exams like crossword puzzles or fill in the blanks. One of the biggest high points for this class was that the instructor gave engaging lectures. When you’re watching a video of what is essentially an instructor going through a powerpoint, their tone of voice, ability to speak clearly without stumbling on words and make the lecture interesting is huge. This instructor nailed it.
Other experiences have not been so positive. There was the class with the instructor who not only spoke in a monotone during each lecture, but also stumbled through their notes making frequent errors. Thankfully, we were well informed about the assignments we were to complete so the class had some positives, but the dry lectures really made it a tough 15 weeks.
i think it is like any other teaching environment – the key is engagement and engagement means finding new ways to present material and keep students interested. I’d be very interested in getting the opportunity to see how an online K-12 school operates. I think as education finds itself in what feels like an ever growing fiscal crunch, more of us may be considering jobs in a virtual school situation.