Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador 2018 – Monroe: Beth Wilson
Beth Wilson is a professor in the psychology department at Monroe Community College.
I have been teaching for nearly thirty years and I never thought I would enjoy teaching online. However, a few years back a colleague needed me to take over her online courses and I decided to give it a try. I had taught the course face-to-face before and it was primarily a lecture based class. Since this was my first attempt at online teaching, I decided to not stray too far away from my comfort zone and developed a similar format course. I wanted my students to feel like they were in one of my lectures and so I narrated all of my PowerPoint presentations. I received tremendous positive feedback from my students. They reported feeling more connected to the course and me than to other online courses without narrated lectures. Although it was a considerable time investment, it was well worth it.
This current semester I am expanding my online pedagogy and have developed a more reading based course that is divided into mini lessons. The mini-lessons require the students to read a portion of the text chapter and take a brief low-stakes quiz on the content. It takes about 30-45 minutes to complete each mini lesson and each unit has 3-5 mini lessons each. My rationale for dividing up the material in this manner, was to allow students to complete a portion of the material during a brief period of time (such as during a lunch hour or when the baby is napping). I also record a “deeper dive” video for each unit, where I cover a confusing or controversial topic in more depth or discuss current events. I also curate and post documentaries, articles, and other media for students to respond to in our all class discussions.
Which leads me to the very unexpected and favorite surprise related to online teaching. I love the discussions my students have with each other. . I also appreciate that everyone has a voice and no one monopolizes the discussion or can hide. I can say without doubt that I have never had such rich exchanges in a face-to-face classroom. Perhaps it’s the anonymity of a discussion forum and the time they can take to formulate their posts and responses, but the result are posts with great depth and discovery and responses to peers that are often compassionate, sometimes challenging and for the most part respectful and collegial. I can see their application of the material in these responses, have the opportunity to correct misunderstandings and students learn from one another. It’s a very powerful tool!