So today and tomorrow Randy LaBonte and I am attending the Bring IT Together 2015 conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario. While this is a general educational technology conference, with a provincial focus here on Ontario, we did want to blog some of the online and blended learning sessions for members of the CANeLearn.
The first session that we are blogging is:
You’re an eLearning teacher, you’re getting more comfortable with using an LMS with your students, but you’re feeling that the course isn’t as engaging as you’d like it to be. You feel a strong desire to take your eLearning teaching skills to the next level so that your eLearning courses can be an amazing learning experience for your students. This session will help by sharing seven key ideas to improving your eLearning practice, as well as providing an opportunity for eLearning teachers to share their insights and discoveries with each other.
This session was presented by Tim Robinson, someone who was one of the district eLearning specialists in Northern Ontario.
At the beginning of his session, he reminded us that great elearning teachers are not born… Teaching in an elearning environment is something that needs to be practiced, worked on, and can be developed over time.
The other point he wanted up front was that elearning began as a way to solve logistical needs (e.g., how do we get certain courses for certain students). But now it is a far more potentially powerful way to address unique student needs.
He focused his session around 7 ways to improve your elearning teaching.
- Believe that elearning can be awesome. Basically, teachers need to believe that elearning is a positive way for students to learn – as opposed to approaching it as a necessity or something that is a last resort.
- Build, foster, create, and encourage community. While this is important in any educational context, within the elearning environment it is critical – maybe even more important than the content itself. Tim referenced a quote from Garrison about the importance of social presence. In order to accomplish this community, elearning teachers MUST humanize themselves (including not being so serious all of the time). Humanizing one’s self as a teacher, also models it for the students on how they can project their own social presence. One strategy for doing this is to keep a file on student interests. Another strategy is to notice which students don’t participate in the early – more social – kinds of activities, as this is usually a warning sign that students might not engage in elearning. While collaboration can be more challenging in an elearning environment, it does foster greater learning through social constructivism. Finally, remember that the human dynamics are still present in the elearning environment, they’re just harder for teachers to pick up on.