While I am enjoying some more time indoors on this hot August day in Kentucky, I’ve been perusing the web, looking for some good information to share with you. I happened across this article out of The Chronicle of Higher Education by Flower Darby. The entire article is a good read, but I’ll highlight the section that stood out the most to me – “Common Misconceptions” about online teaching. These are misconceptions I am often tasked with debunking when I tell someone I teach online for a living! It was nice to see it laid out here. I’ll summarize this section below:
Misconception 1: “Online classes are like slow cookers: Set and forget.”
Real Deal: A set and forget online classroom is doomed to fail – not only the students, but the instructor as well. In a dog eat dog world of online teaching job-getting, too many student evaluations with this phrase, “I took this class and the teacher was never available or participated” is going to render future solicitations fewer and further between. For an online class to be successful the instructor has to be fully engaged in the classroom on all levels – in discussion, question answering, assignment feedback, and overall conscientiousness about course design and layout. Online classrooms are not self-studies. They are dynamic classrooms where a strong relationship is established between the instructor and the students.
Misconception 2: “Online students are lazy/disengaged/(insert negative adjective here).”
Real Deal: Well, maybe, but not necessarily any more so than students in the face-to-face environment. And, this rationale is in some ways a product of the ol’ fundamental attribution error. We tend to blame others’ mistakes on an assumed personality feature of theirs vs. on the situation (we do the opposite for our own mistakes). It is equally, or perhaps more so, likely that the students aren’t engaged because we aren’t engaging them. When we face a problem in online classroom environment, a good course of action is to look inward. The problem may not expressly be your fault, but its the only thing you have any control over.
Misconception 3: “Online classes don’t work.”
Real Deal: This is patently untrue. But it is true that online classes won’t work if you view them as the little brother or the sub-par version of a “real” face-to-face classroom. This particular attitude will doom an online classroom. We need to take research from the best practices in online teaching and use that to mindfully craft a strong online classroom with all the components that make it great. If we try to make a virtual version of a face-to-face classroom, it won’t work nearly as well.
Misconception 4: “Teaching online is not as enjoyable as teaching in person.”
Real Deal: Again, comparison is the root of all discontent. Don’t compare! Enjoy being an on-ground teacher for all that looks like and entails and enjoy being an online teacher for all that looks like and entails. As Darby says in the article,
“If you find online education to be unsatisfying, that might be because the activities you undertake when “teaching” online resemble administrative tasks more than dynamic co-construction of new knowledge with students. You log in to grade student work, check boxes, go through the motions, manage operational functions. No wonder it doesn’t seem fulfilling. Those activities are drudgery.”
So, find a way to be you in the online classroom, to engage your students – who, by the way, are very interesting folks; mostly adult learners who are working in the field and eager to learn what they need to to get ahead at work, thus supporting their families in the ways to which they aspire.
Debunked any of your own misconceptions about online teaching? Have any other “Misconception Vs. Real Deals” to share? Please leave a comment below!