Stacks of computers in a hallway.

As the class winds down..

Having enrolled in my first formal class on online learning, I have had my first experience learning the technical backend of setting up an LMS course. In teacher preparation classes we often talk about lesson plans, what goes into a good one, and then inevitably, take a crack at writing one prior to entering the classroom. I felt like this was how my experience with EDTECH 522 was–a lot of discussion about what goes into an online class and then the big moment where we had to take what we learned, and apply it through the development of an online course in blackboard. What I found was it took far more time than I anticipated gathering all my materials, figuring out how to use Blackboard, and then make the lesson not overwhelming in the layout for a student who might be new to Blackboard or online learning. I also had an opportunity to use a screencast tool that I use on a regular basis in my current job, with a feature I had both never thought to use nor knew how to use–the web cam showing myself throughout the cast. This was a new experience and allowed me to consider how it might create a connection with students in a way that just my voice alone would not.

Pedagogically speaking, I was not as well informed about some of the research around online learning. As a certified teacher, educational philosophies were nothing new to me but having to think of them in the lens of an online class was new. I really enjoyed the articles we read that discussed the history of online learning and provided insight as to what worked/didn’t but also how there really is little structure around quality–meaning most colleges are “certified” or recognized by a larger evaluating organization for the quality of the university’s educational offerings, yet this doesn’t exist as much in the online education–something that I believe negatively impacts the credibility sometimes of this form of learning. I also was unfamiliar with the terms social presence, cognitive presence, teaching presence and how they play a part in constructing an effective online class environment. How to make it so students felt a part of a larger class, felt connected to their professor–these are things I hadn’t directly thought about, though certainly experienced in my online courses at Boise and at the Academy of Art University. Overall, I was more attentive to what was happening in my other online classes–what did I like? Write it down for 522!

What I appreciated about taking this class now is that it is towards the end of my courses at Boise State in the Edutech department. That said, a number of my courses all feed into what goes into an online class just never explicitly required the creation of an online class. So for example, my instructional design course played a role in the way I approached some of my material, as did my evaluations course as I thought of pre and post assessments and how the course could be used overtime and with different audiences. For my job as a Digital Literacy & Computer Science Coordinator, I have mentioned the need for instruction on Cybersecurity. The superintendent agreed and allowed me time at a whole staff event. While I haven’t directly planned out my time, it is my intention over the next three  years to have a required course that all faculty & staff must pass. In doing so, teachers and staff will potentially be more aware of the what-to-do and what-to-recognize as threats prior to “inviting” them into our district network. I used this class to create materials and a course that I would want my staff to use. While we don’t have a formal LMS (because our school committee voted it down), the content will still be useful to me as I find another way to make it available to those in our district. Also, by practicing with Blackboard from the backend, I recognize that it is not user friendly and was able to rule it out as an LMS I’d like our district to explore–if I found it challenging, my struggling staff members would flat out feel defeated by it. Yet even apart from the physical content of the online course construction, some of the tools we used and the readings that caused me to think and reflect with an online lens will find their way into my practice. I’m sure I will be working and drop back on the notes I took while reading our textbook and I already have used some of the research in discussions with the school committee and other colleagues.

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