Comparison to the classroom
Online students are in general more motivated and interested in participating. I get much more feedback and questions online than in the classroom
I designed this course for students to "discover" new understanding as they progressed through the Modules. The discussions among the students are very stimulating; as they are encouraged to ask; as well as answer; course relevant questions of each other. Instructor questions foster a different; more familiar form of pedagogy.
I have been extremely pleased with every semester of this course; as well as the amount and quality of student involvement and learning.
The SLN web environment is an excellent learning environment and I'm sure; in some instances; more effective than a classroom. It's a relaxed atmosphere that may make participants out of those not compelled to participate in a traditional classroom setting.
“In online courses, I find that the students as a group play a tremendously important role in the learning process - possibly more so than in the classroom setting. Due to the topic and the open sharing of students, this course tends to create a very active learning environment.”
“I think it is more demanding, more productive and, ultimately, more fun”
Sense of Class Community
While teaching online is extremely time consuming; especially in technology training with teachers; I found the experience rewarding (as did my students). I am amazed even after four semesters the kind of community that can be formed with such media.
“Even though the class has ended my students still keep in touch with me and with friends they made in the class. We found this to be an excellent way to learn and considered ourselves a family.”
“For this first time out, I truly felt that I had an excellent discourse community--one far stronger than I have ever managed to build in a traditional classroom. I hope to teach this course--online--exclusively for as long as I
Catalyst for classroom transformation
Instructing this on-line course was one of the most positive teaching experiences I have had in my career as an educator. This entire experience has given me a new outlook on my classroom teaching. I am looking forward to teaching on-line again in the Fall semester.
“I think the virtual community created by online courses is important to students, and is for some students, given their situation, the only academic community they have access to.”
Shyness and stress
I felt that online courses give every student a stronger voice. When I have taught on site classes some students are more reluctant to share their ideas. Online classes provide more time to reflect and answer. The lack of face to face contact makes it easier to take risks.
There were times when I really wanted to have everybody together at once. Online; or at least in my course; students could follow the ideas that interested them most. If they didn't truly understand something or were a bit uncomfortable they didn't really have to react. At those times; I wished I had some way of looking out over the class and making sure they were taking in the ideas I was trying to get across. I missed those teachable moments when you realize you need to shift and take everybody in a new direction. It's harder to do that online because there is less flexibility in the structure.
Online students can express themselves free of peer visual and body language. This allows shy students to contribute according to their intellectual efforts and is probably a better learning medium for them.
A disadvantage is that the loss of same-time interaction and eye-contact can make for less exciting and free-wheeling discussions.
Students tell me that they feel free-er saying what they really think online - compared to their classroom experiences. There is no competition for talk time - yea. Reacting to writings by authors from multiple ethnicities and races is easier; since students do not know each other's 'visible' characteristics. They say this helps them be more open to new ideas.
Time to reflect
The flexibility of submitting assignments for the students and of grading assignments for the instructor are two big advantages. Another advantage is that students appear to be more willing to participate in discussions because they have time to consider and revise their responses and seem to be more comfortable writing responses than speaking them in class. The main disadvantage is that it seems to take more commitment to show up online than in class and to meet the deadline for submitting assignment.
The convenience and flexibility of teaching anytime and anywhere is the greatest advantage. It works well with my lifestyle. I have four children who demand my attention during the afternoon and evening with sports; lessons; and other activities. Teaching online allows me to teach early morning and late evening when demands on my time are less.
Another advantage of teaching online is that students can take advantage of the resources available on the Internet easily. Also; the discussion area forces them to relate their ideas and discuss the course content. Finally; the more detailed feedback from assignments I believe helps the student understand the material better.
Mature students who are balancing family and work responsibilities can find the time to participate in online discussions; complete reading assignments and prepare papers responding to written assignments. By working on the time available to them there interest and contribution is greater than it would be should they be required to attend a class at a proscribed time and place
“(I chose to teach online) to spend more time with family – I am sure that this is a motivating factor for many…”
“I believe that to an effective on line instructor, you have to be responsive with your comments. You also have to be proactive in bringing your relevant experience into play, e.g. I spent over 20 years in a corporate environment in marketing and project/contract management positions, 15 of those years being spent on overseas assignments. I try to relate that experience to course material.”
“I feel that community starts with the professor. Grading work on a regular schedule and checking for messages daily should be a requirement.”
The highly positive attributes of SLN; far outweigh any negatives of the SLN course management software. (And my frame of reference includes BCC's web-based; WebCT; & Blackboard; etc.) Infact; in contrast; I do have a top ten list of things in the traditional classroom that drive me up the wall; (including "fire drills" when I am just getting across a critical point). Motivating and orienting students to on-line study habits are my concerns. However; the SLN course management software; and the SLN Team of Experts; most of whom were the original guides; (Alex Pickett; Peter Shea; & Lynn Mayer); should EACH win a special Chancellor's Award for making major contributions to New York State's Education System. They have dedicated the past 8 years to providing professional; innovative; and ethical educational options to faculty; to students; and to the public. And I am highly satisfied; as a BCC professor; to have been associated with the SLN Staff; Course Platform; and evolutionary course development since its inception.
I believe that the only reason that SLN has achieved the success that they have; is because of the great leadership and technical support that we receive from the SUNY team.
Where to begin: I've learned so much about teaching online; and I have many ideas on how to improve my course the next time around. I am having some doubts about the efficacy of teaching grammar on-line; I am reflecting on this area (trying to be creative and; at the same time; develop materials that help students grow in this area).
I do believe that students grew in this course; but I would have liked to see more growth in the area of grammar. As I prepare to teach this class again online; I find myself back at the drawing board; trying to reflect on how to refine my course to produce the best possible outcomes for all. Thanks to [my MID] for his unfailing and steady support throughout the semester!
I enjoyed this experience. I was impressed with the quality and amount of faculty support for course development. My Mentor; [my MID] was notably helpful.
I think one of the strongest aspects of teaching in the SLN web environment is that SLN provides excellent training and support services. I thoroughly enjoyed the 3 faculty development sessions and found them to be very useful. My multimedia instructional designer was a gem. I have a strong information science and instructional technology background and so it was easy for me to adapt to the Lotus Notes platform. But if I had had technical problems; there were seasoned professionals immediately available. When I did have questions; my MID was right there with the answers. Great job!
The support for SLN teaching is tremendous; on a campus and a systems level--that's terrific; and thanks very much.
Advisement for students most suited to the online medium seems increasingly crucial; to me. Time and again; the same "profile" does the best--adult returning; often in the education curriculum; using the option because of work/schedule constraints. The traditional student adopting more the "tourist" approach just doesn't seem to thrive: is more likely not to log on; doesn't respond to red flags and offers of help; is more likely to plagiarize. So; for us anyway; advisement will be key I suspect.
“I am very pleased with the level of learning and critical thinking that has occurred among students in this course. The results have been beyond my original expectations, and I am very satisfied. I owe a great deal of gratitude to the support team at [my campus] - they helped me create this excellent learning environment for the students!”