As someone who is familiar with distance learning since (roughly) 2005, I have begun to notice the good, the bad and the downright ugly. These terrible things have not kept me from learning online, however it could prove to do a working student in, especially when the culprit is a bad online teacher.
Before I begin, I must say I will try to refrain from being too harsh because distance learning teachers have a life too including spouses, children, and some tend to be on travel, so of course that much is understandable. I will discuss this topic by topic. They are: Online teachers, communications, and technical know-how.
- A good online teacher logs in just as regularly as a student. Some students who are working(or not) log in at least three to four times a week or more. An online teacher should log in around those same times too because students may have questions that need an immediate answer. Solution: As a teacher, set up a time you will be online. What seemed to work well for one of my instructor’s classes was being online in the morning, checking online in the afternoon while out(if you have a high tech phone), and then once at night.
- A good online teacher has tons of patience. I ventured online and found a post where someone said a math teacher helped them out for two hours over the phone! That is an amazing picture of patience. I’ve come across teachers who sounded impatient in their emails and discussion posts. Not good. Solution: If you find you have no patience to teach, especially when the subject is difficult, perhaps you need to re-evaluate why you took on this job and find out the true source of your stress.
- A good online teacher knows how to direct discussions in an online environment. True story: My husband was taking a perspectives class online and the teacher literally said “I want the students to lead discussions, and you have to post in this manner. This is what I found to work for ME”; during his time in class was hell because the instructor graded more harsh on the student feedback than the initial posting and art work! Huh?!…..This was not good at all. Solution: As a teacher YOU should direct all traffic in posts, the students are depending on you for your help and expertise. Even if other students are doing better than others, conversations should not be graded harder than the actual assignment.* What works for you just doesn’t count. Sorry.
- A good online teacher does not let personal favortism get in the way. This is another NO NO if you are an online teacher or a teacher who works in a physical building. This isn’t a good morale booster when a student makes a bad first start with a low grade and you continue to downgrade him/her and not really looking deep into their work anymore because you assume it isn’t worth checking into. I’ve witness this happen as well. It is not a way to keep a student there. Solution: Treat every student the same. Everyone is different and unique and deserve a chance. If the student is literally having trouble with assignments, make a phone call or send an email asking what is going on. This shows a more human, mature side of you.
*When it comes to distance learning, it has been said that discussion boards are there to make a classroom seem more real. A discussion board is accessed through a virtual classroom and is similar to a forum or chat room. The idea is to keep communication lines open. However, along the way, higher education forgot what goes on in an actual classroom. In an actual classroom, the teacher is the director and all assignments are turned into him/her. Class discussions work best with peer editing in a writing course or something like that, but you are not graded down because of your “conversation”, you are graded for particpation.
My husband’s perspective teacher at the Arts Institute wanted “conversations” to weigh more heavily than her difficult assignments and main assignments/main posts. This is not real or ideal. Students don’t wish to be graded heavily on feedback, they want the higher grade to be the one they busted their tails for. I will venture back to this problem in another post.
I hope you enjoyed this post because there will be more. I am trying to figure out much needed changes in the online school environment.