Teaching and learning is decidedly different when comparing and contrasting a traditional classroom environment with that of online learning. Because of the lack of non-verbal cues and expression from other students enrolled in the same course and that of the professor, the emotion and emphasis on specific ideas must be relayed differently.
With regard to pedagogical instruction, the instructor must carry out or delegate several roles. The instructor must first of all design the course in the manner to best reach the learners. That task in itself, for a new instructor, can be very time-consuming and will most likely include a great deal of adjustment throughout the course until the instructor figures out what works best and what does not. I can see myself in this predicament, as I do it all of the time in a traditional classroom as well. (What works for some, doesn’t necessarily work for others)
The next role would be as an inspiration to the learners to excite them about what they are about to engage upon in the course and help them hold on to that interest throughout the entire course from beginning to end. A intriguing hook is a great way to reel them in, but online, I feel it may be more difficult to keep them on the line and looking for more without a lot of effort by the instructor. Since emotions are harder to convey to surge interest, the instructor must utilize other measures to keep them coming back for more. I’m not sure what this is when it comes to my module on perspective, but I will figure it out. I was just reminded while writing this that my students may not find the topic or information as engaging as I do. So, I will have to find a way to make it so.
As the feedback giver the instructor as to continuously offer comment and critique to the work created and submitted by the learners. This not only allows the instructor to guide the learner in the right direction, but it allows for the learners to understand that someone is monitoring and “right there” to assist should there be questions. I think that students love hearing your thoughts on their work. The more often you can give them feedback, the more they are interested in continuing on with a clearer direction for completing their tasks.
Lastly, as the interaction-facilitator, the instructor has to determine and inform the learners of what the discussion and feedback rules are from peer-to-peer. Clearly defined rules are important, especially with 7th graders. When teaching my students to peer-edit, we have a specific set of rules that cannot be broken. Those are: critique constructively and be specific in what needs to be changed and why. I feel those rules can also apply in an online learning course, but discussion which can be easily curbed in a traditional classroom, needs to be addressed carefully in an online environment. Informing the students that the instructor has access to all discussion among the students is a positive way to keep them on the right track. The instructor can also pose specific questions and thought provoking ideas to the student to address in their work as part of the facilitation process.
Within the above roles, online instructors can promote and oversee the student-content, student-student, and student-instructor interactions throughout the course.
The many challenges facing the instructors are in any online environment would be, to me, carrying out all aspects of the roles. As a new instructor, it seems overwhelming, but as time and experience passes, it may become more the norm and automatic for the instructor. In the later situation, the instructor can focus on the learners themselves and how to best reach them for each individual course. Tweaking of the different approaches to the individual students will always be addressed for obvious reasons.
I will play several roles listed above to some extent. I am the designer of the course and thus will guide the students through what my expectations are for them while completing the module. I will facilitate the discussions to a point. I want to be a presence, but I don’t want to control all of the conversation. I wish to throw a possibility out there such as, “Discuss any group that may have no benefit from the railroad and decide if that is acceptable to those that do benefit?”