February 2015

Reflection on my first 5 weeks of ETEC533 online teaching


As of now I have been teaching my on-line ETEC 533 course (Teaching mathematics and science through technology) for the last five weeks. As it is almost a half-course mark, it is time for me to ask myself what I have learned from this experience. Here I would like to make a very short list of 6 most important experiences (lessons) I picked up from the course so far:

6. Clear expectations: I have to make sure my expectations are clear as everybody comes with different prior online learning experiences. Making clear expectations in terms of the Discussion Board participation was very important.

5. Prompt feedback: I noticed how much the students appreciated prompt feedback. Including the feedback on their papers. If they know I am reading their assignments carefully, they will put more effort into it. I cannot expect from them a lot without modelling it myself.

4. Acknowledging students’ expertise: I feel that we have a wealth of expertise in this group. We have teachers with a lot of teaching experience, we have teachers who teach all over the world. We have teachers who have a lot of knowledge of technology and how to use it. An online course can draw on all this amazing expertise – it is beneficial to everybody and it acknowledges students’ contributions.

3. Providing various learning opportunities: I found that the students enjoyed being able to see everybody’s contributions and comment on them. Usually students submit assignments and the only person who reads them is the instructor. In my class, I organized it so everybody has a chance to provide feedback on everybody’s work. We are learning from each other – it is very simple and yet very powerful.

2. Well organized Schedule: I am still working on fine-tuning it, but it looks like for an online course taken by working teachers many of whom are also parents has to be well planed. I have spent lots of time thinking in advance of how to organize it so scaffolding is a big part of the course and the students can plan their time in advance. It seems to me it is working rather well.

1. Build Rapport with the students: While some might consider it to be a waste of time, I feel that it is crucial for a success of an online course. We have to feel as a community and to do so we have to get to know each other. Getting to know each other was a built-in concept in the course. It was required to post a few words about yourself and to comment on the posts of others. I feel it made all of us feel more comfortable and we also could see who has different kinds of expertise and interests. I think it was a good first step in the course.

While the course is a work in progress, I look at it as a learning experience. One of the Discussion Forums of the course is an anonymous forum and it allows students to provide continuous feedback. I find it very useful. It helps me see what is going on and it helps me to make sure the course is working. I would recommend it to everybody teaching online.

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