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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Thornhill

How ready are you to teach online? (1.1 A1)

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

My experience with teaching online began in 1998 when I was a graduate assistant at University of Illinois. We taught some of the first hybrid classes, at least that I had ever heard of. The students did "preparatory" (passive-skill) activities on a primitive LMS called Mallard for two credits and then came to the face-to-face discussion sessions to talk. Fast forward to 2022 and this has been the bulk of my teaching experience - the hybrid model. I have taught at the beginner, intermediate, advanced, and superior levels (using ACTFL terminology). I have never taught or participated in a fully asynchronous class.

After doing some qualitative research (gossiping), I am (happily) surprised that many students enjoy the online model. I am wary, though, of spoiling them. The world outside the classroom is not so accommodating. For instance, many students insist that they are "visual learners" and are resistant to listening without text, and so they gravitate to online learning because it is so heavy on written text. If they choose to work in a community where literacy is low, though, they will have to use the language strictly verbally. We have to ensure a balance between their preferences and reality. How do we best achieve this balance?

So, how ready am I to teach online? I have a handle on the preparatory side of online teaching. My syllabuses, materials, and rubrics are well-designed and successful. I also have realistic expectations for the time commitment involved. Improvements I would like to make include:
  • Varying activity type to increase asynchronous student engagement. "Compose a brief description of X" is not sufficient.

  • Making the synchronous sessions more collaborative. All too often we often use them to conduct rounds of "mini-classes" with each student one-at-a-time, which is inefficient.

So, how ready are you to teach online? What do you do well? What do you think you could improve about your teaching?

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