Teaching and learning in the 21st century not only utilizes various technologies, but also takes place any time and any place. During the last decade, higher education institutions equipped many of their classrooms with the latest computer hardware and software applications and trained their faculty and staff to use the technology. With the technological advancements and the changing needs of institutions and students, more faculty members are teaching online.
Main Focus: Challenges Of Teaching Online
Faculty choose to teach courses online for a variety of reasons. Teaching online provides faculty with an opportunity to 1) get more involved with technology; 2) use technology more innovatively to enhance teaching and learning; 3) meet the needs of students at a distance; 4) increase flexibility in working hours and locations; 5) respond to students’ requests for online educational opportunities; 6) interact with students more frequently; and 7) respond to administration’s initiative (McKenzie, Mims, Bennett, Waugh, 2000). As they prepare to teach their courses online, faculty face numerous challenges that can be classified into four areas: online course design; technology tools and course management systems; faculty development; and finally technical and administration support (Berge, Muilenburg, & Van Haneghan, 2002; Levine & Sun, 2002).
Online Course Design
Teaching online and at a distance are different from teaching face-to-face (Cyrs, 1997). Good teaching practices, however, work in either instructional setting. Hacker and Niederhauser (2000) suggest five instructional practices that current research proves to promote learning in both online and face-to-face environments: 1) asking students to construct deep explanations, justifications, and reasons for what they think and do; 2) grounding learning through effective use of examples; 3) using collaborative problem-solving strategies; 4) using appropriate and adequate feedback throughout instruction; and 5) embedding motivational components that enhance students’ self-efficacy. These practices are grounded in (also aligned with) the seven principles of good practice in undergraduate education (Chickering & Gamson, 1987). Furthermore, Cyrs (1997) argues that teaching in distance-learning environments not only requires sound pedagogical practices, but additional skills in course planning and organization, and working collaboratively with colleagues.
A systematic and thoughtful approach to online course design is essential (Beaudin, 1999; Kearsley, 2002; Palloff & Pratt, 2001). McLellan (1999) recommends that instructors design online courses that communicate the course purpose, identify learning activities and course requirements, explain the role of the instructor and the student, provide an orientation to resources and the online learning environment, and reinforce the value of forming an online learning community.
In addition, online course design should incorporate teaching strategies. For example, the use of guided didactic conversations as a strategy for instruction at a distance can simulate a dialogue between the student and the faculty member (Morrison & Guenther, 2000). The dialogue that takes place in an online discussion forum usually leads to students’ better understanding of the instructional materials.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Social Bookmarking: A practice of organizing information and categorizing Web-based resources in a public Web site through use of tagging the keywords (EDUCAUSE, 2005).
Online Learning Communities (OLCs): Community that has many of the same characteristics as campus learning communities, but no physical locations and boundaries, extends beyond campuses, regions, and countries. Learners support and assist one another in accomplishing learning tasks and projects. During their interaction with peers, instructors, and experts from the field, learners pose questions, test ideas and hypotheses, share and exchange experiences, and solve problems (Zhu, 2004).
Blog: A software application that allows its user to post text and images on the Web as a form of online publication and communication. Downes (2004) states that a blog “adds to the form of the diary by incorporating the best features of hypertext; the capacity to link to new and useful resources” (p. 18)
Online Teaching: Delivery of instruction using different Web-based technologies, from the Internet or an intranet and other communication technologies, that enable students to participate in learning activities beyond the campus, from students’ homes to workplaces and other locations (Zhu, Payette, & DeZure, 2003).
Online Course Design: Setting goals and learning objectives, selecting technology tools, preparing instructional strategies, and planning evaluation for courses to be delivered online.
Web-Based Instruction (WBI): A hypermedia-based instructional program that utilizes the attributes and resources of the World Wide Web to create a meaningful environment where learning is fostered and supported (Khan, 1997, p. 6).
Instant Messaging (IM): A form of synchronous online communication that allows two or more computer users to communicate via typed text across network connection (Farmer, 2005)
Course Management System (CMS): A software system that is specifically designed and marketed for faculty and students to use in teaching and learning. Common course management systems include, but are not limited to, WebCT, Blackboard, LearningSpace, and eCollege. Most course management systems include course content, organization and presentation, communication tools, student assessment tools, grade-book tools, and functions that manage class materials and activities (Morgan, 2003).
Wiki: A server-based software application that freely supports the creation and editing of Web page content by users using any Web browser. In this online environment, users create hyperlinks by employing simple text syntax as well as linking internal pages and creating new ones. Wikipedia (http://wikipedia.org/) is a good example of how a Wiki can be used to support the creation and distribution of a multilingual free encyclopedia.
Podcast: An innovation that refers “to any software and hardware combination that permits automatic downloading of audio files for listening at the user’s convenience” (EDUCAUSE, 2005). Campbell (2005) states podcasting’s popularity is due to its ease of publication, subscription, and use across multiple environments.
Faculty Development: Programs and activities focus on the individual faculty member. The most common focus for programs of this type is the faculty member as a teacher. Faculty development specialists provide consultation on teaching, including class organization, evaluation of students, in-class presentation skills, questioning, and all aspects of design and presentation (POD Network, 2004).
Distance Education: A generic term for “all forms of education in which all or most of the teaching is conducted in a different space than the learning, with the effect that all or most of the communication between teachers and learners is through a communication technology” (Moore& Anderson, 2003, p. xiv).