There are many online teachers that are dedicated to the modality and have figured out some great strategies and best practices. However, there are a few myths about online teaching and learning that still exist. Here are a few:
Teaching online is not an enjoyable experience
Many teachers in higher education don’t see online teaching as a rewarding experience. In fact, many teachers report that teaching in-person is a much more rewarding and enjoyable experience. Perhaps this is because teachers that have made the switch to on-line teaching find they are doing much more administrative work than expected. If teachers simply log on, grade student work, review discussion posts, and manage other basic functions it may seem that this modality is not going to be enjoyable.
Teaching online courses can be very rewarding. From my own experience and experience of some of my closest colleagues, I would say that a majority of the online students are not only working but are also caring for children or other members of their families. These students take online classes because it’s the only way for them to pursue higher education. Many online teachers report getting a closer glimpse into the personal lives of their students, those experiences, and those challenges that the students choose to overcome when taking online classes. An experienced colleague of mine recently told me that the opportunities provided by a classroom without walls and across great distances are how they find joy in teaching online.
Teaching online classes doesn’t work
In 2017, EDUCAUSE conducted a survey on faculty and information technology and discovered that approximately one-half of these faculty didn’t agree that online learning was effective. There is plenty of evidence that online courses can produce student learning outcomes that are comparable to those in-person courses. This evidence continues to roll in year after year. Just like any in-person class, the high-quality on-line versions will require excellent on-line teachers. It is the responsibility of the teachers and the designers with which they work to create a highly engaging and effective on-line classes.
Students that take online classes are lazy
Some students that take on-line classes may put in a minimal amount of work, and just enough to get by with. Does this mean that lazy students are more likely to take an on-line class? Or have we as educators created an environment on-line that contributes to this type of student disengagement? Things to consider:
- Are we offering these courses to a student population that is more likely to be working and raising a family?
- Are we offering these courses to students who do not have the adequate equipment to be successful?
- Are we asking faculty without experience in on-line education to lead these courses?
- Are we presenting an unorganized and confusing course design that is less than appealing to the students?
Any one of these items can make on-line learning a challenge. A combination of two or more of these items can be a disaster.
Successful online learning requires a certain level of skill that some students simply do not possess. This means that on-line students must be able to manage their time well, motivate themselves, direct their own learning, and seek help when it is needed.
Successful online teaching requires that faculty make an extra effort to help those students persist. This takes awareness of the challenges of on-line education as well as careful thought, expert planning, empathy, and a high level of comfort with technology.
Online courses can run on auto-pilot
Some on-line teachers subscribe to the idea that on-line courses, once created, can simply be run by themselves and students can successfully meet the objectives. Maybe this is because online courses take such a tremendous effort to prepare before the very first day. In theory, all assignments, activities, discussion prompts, and the gradebook should be created in advance so that students can see everything from the first day. Unfortunately, some online teachers feel that students should be able to walk themselves through the on-line course without much engagement or guidance from the teacher.
On-line teachers should plan to guide their students through the course by being active and engaged weekly. Best practice includes blocking out time on the weekly calendar as if you’re attending the class in person. Be available, post announcements, reply to discussions, and grade students’ work on a regular basis. Just like an in-person course, teaching online requires continuous involvement from the teacher.