Monday, November 18, 2013

Planning Teaching Activities in Online and Hybrid Courses

It is a growing trend that instruction and learning in higher education is taking place increasingly online. Traditional face-to-face courses are now looking more like hybrids. And online courses are becoming the norm. But what if you have never taught online before? How can you begin to bridge your current skills to the new environment? In this post I share my advice:
  1. Learn the tools of the online environment
  2. Understand the weekly flow of your class
  3. Plan your online teaching and course management activities
Learn the Tools of the Online Environment
It is important to become aware of the new tools that you can use to accomplish the activities you do in a face-to-face teaching environment. The table below identifies some of the general tools that are found in most Learning Management Systems. You can employ these tools to accomplish many of the activities you normally accomplish in a traditional environment.

It is crucial that you become familiar with these tools and master how to use them effectively in your work. Doing so will empower you to use the strengths of the online environment and will enable you to help your students move forward effectively. The table below outlines the tools that you might use to accomplish the activities you normally do as an instructor.

Traditional Teaching Activity
Online Tools
Grading
Grade Book
Feedback

Announcement (general)
Email (general or specific)
Assignment feedback in Grade Book (specific)
Communication to students

Announcement
Email
Giving instructions

Announcement
Email
Giving additional materials
Discussion
Build Content
Video Conference
Discussions

Discussion Boards
Video Conference
Meeting with students

Video Conference
Lecturing
Additional Instruction
Video Conference both live and prerecorded
Sharing Examples

Video Conference
Discussion Board
Announcement
Build Content


The Weekly Flow of Your Class
Below is one visual display of how I plan out my week for courses that I teach in the IDPT Program at Franklin University. While this may not apply directly to your own teaching context, it should give you an idea of the kinds of activities you might schedule and perform in your own courses. You will notice that this image also displays the kinds of activities the students are performing during the same time period. You can see how the faculty member's activities are designed to support the work and the learning of the students.



Implementing Hybrid Technologies into Your Daily and Weekly Schedule
Once you have obtained the skills of using these tools, it is important that you plan out how you will begin to use these tools in your own teaching. This means that you must plan out which tasks you will perform throughout the week. I have personally found that scheduling time to do course management and teaching activities throughout the week really helps me to facilitate learning in an online course. As is implied in the image above, these activities should support your students' learning. I have found it helpful to schedule the following into my calendar:
  • grading and feedback - I try to complete grading the day or two after the assignments are submitted so that students can read my feedback and use it in future assignments.
  • planning and preparing my class meetings and slides to ensure an effective online meeting.
  • participating in student discussion boards to help guide the students' thinking and to increase my presence in the class.
  • responding to student emails (usually every morning and often throughout the day) to give students the support they need in their coursework.
  • proactively scheduling online and phone office hours to meet with students in need.

Planning Your Own Online Teaching and Management Activities
If you are new to online teaching, or want to improve your effectiveness and efficiency as an instructor, take some time to plan your own weekly activities. In this case, I recommend identifying what activities you will perform on which days and at what times. This will help you have a clear idea of what you must do to maintain your presence in your online course and will help you more effectively support your students' learning .
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