Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What I learned from writing & teaching my first online classes

Q: I would like to know how you designed the online curriculum and then implemented it as well. I can understand why it took so much more time than teaching in the classroom.  ~ Kevin D.

A:  You can see my online English 12 A course here: http://www.avon-schools.org/Page/9475 and then       12 B will be on the left-sided menu. This is what I learned:

1. Assume nothing.

2. Be very clear in writing directions. Misinterpretation is common until you...well, I was going to write, until you learn to be very clear and reread directions as a student might, but this is challenging. So be willing to revise directions as needed.

3. Try to read your own directions as a student would. Often, the way students interpret written directions is different than what you intended.

4. Make podcasts, vodcasts, Screencasts, and audio recordings! For everything! Make them for whole class directions and then to answer individual student questions.

5. Remind students again and again to read all directions.

6. Double check that all links work - for students. Surprising links will be blocked by your school.

7. Use Goolge Docs so you can tweak documents once you hear back from the first few students about questions they have. Saving & uploading Word Docs gets to be too time consuming.

8. Google Docs is a terrific way for students to submit their work to you.

9. Meet with students periodically. Students still need their teacher!

10. Be prepared for the unexpected. I had one student last year who emailed me every single day what he was doing. This was not required but he did this anyway and it helped me understand his pacing. This summer, I already have one student who has called me each night to tell me what she's done. Not required but for her, it is what she needs for success - and I'm happy to pick up the phone and listen for just a moment and give her encouragement. So be prepared for things you just cannot plan ahead for.

11. Plagiarism abounds. As is true for any assignment, the directions must be written for your students, for the objective, for the material you are teaching in order for plagiarism to be unnecessary; students writing to a unique, tailor-made assignment have nothing to take after searching the Internet for the correct answer.

12. Copy model student answers for each assignment somewhere so you can share them with students - this helps students learn the material, know what a terrific response looks like, compare own answers to high quality answers, and understand grading practices.

Writing this curriculum from scratch and then teaching it for a year was an intense learning experience, and I'm still learning as I teach an online class this summer.

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