Assumptions about Online Teaching

Happy Friday! I thought today I’d take a little time to talk about online teaching. I’ve been thinking about it a lot because of the push at so many universities to make more and more programs and courses available online, as technology for holding synchronous and asynchronous sessions for students improves, and as more people seem to be espousing online education as a panacea in these rather lean budgetary times.

First, I have to say that I’m in no way against online teaching and education and am for really good online teaching. I work with faculty to help them increase their comfort level and use of technology in their teaching and support good teaching, period. However, I am worried a little that this exponentially increasing push towards online teaching, without the concurrent support for teachers on how to leverage online tools and focus on pedagogy and learning outcomes, is a case of following a trend because it is a trend and not because it is in the best interests of either the students or the teachers.

For an example of how to teach online not just well, but in an outstanding fashion, check out MPB Reflections. Michelle is an award-winning online teacher and her blog is filled with thoughtful posts and ideas for making online teaching effective, collaborative, and community-based. In the interest of full disclosure, I know Michelle and have worked with her which probably biases my opinion but that doesn’t mean she still isn’t a fantastic teacher and fount of knowledge when it comes to the online teaching world.

Michelle recently posted this video that shows what not to do in an online class. While I too would be really upset if my online class consisted just of reading chapters from a book with no interaction with my professor or fellow students, I think that this video misses a larger, systemic issue that affects the quality of online teaching: support for faculty.

Faculty need to use technology more effectively, but they also need support. No one wakes up one day and is a superb online instructor. Faculty need instruction as much as their students on how to use technology, if not more because the faculty are learning to translate their teaching to an online environment. Not only do faculty need support, but those who work in support services (like instructional design, LMS support, accessibility and student disability resource centers, and faculty development) need programmatic, consistent support from the institution in order to foster a thriving, innovative, and collaborative online learning program for both students and instructors.

So what does this have to do with the library and librarians? Librarians are often the unsung technology gurus of the institution. Many librarians are at the bleeding edge when it comes to technology and libraries have been using online databases and other resources for years. I think librarians are positioned well to support students and faculty in enjoying better online learning experiences.

This is, obviously, not news to most librarians. However, it is news to most other departments and people at your institutions I’m sure. Librarians need to get out of the library, as many have been calling for, and get some PR campaigns going so that we are central to online teaching and learning and not a dusty afterthought. And that’s my soapbox moment for the week.

Now to something that has nothing to do with pleading for libraries to become more visible to the campus community, check out the videos and information about the new iPad. It looks awesome. I know that some people say it is just an iTouch on steroids, but I don’t care–I want one when the iPad is released later this spring.

Have a great weekend, read lots, and the Waki Librarian will be back next week with more thoughts about technology and libraries.