Prepare to be an online instructor by being an online student

Home Forums Understanding Learners and Learning (Week 2) Design an authentic learning activity (Activity 2.4a) Prepare to be an online instructor by being an online student

This topic contains 10 replies, has 8 voices, and was last updated by  James Kerr 6 years, 4 months ago.

  • Author
  • #17819

    James Kerr

    I’m working on a project that is a short course (5 days) on the basics of teaching online, specifically aimed at Graduate Teaching Associates. The goal of the course is to prepare GTAs for teaching in an online environment. It is tool and platform agnostic, and focuses on the foundations of time management, communicating, preparing learning spaces, fostering presence, and assessments. During the five days, the learners are basically directed to create an online learning environment using guidelines from course, while experiencing the online environment as a learner in an online course.

    Learners can select nearly any platform or tool they want to use. The important thing is that they then form that space into one that facilitates learning and supports teaching, cognitive, and social presence. It’s a design activity, which is then assessed by the course facilitators and their peers.

    The learners experience the online course as a student directly. They are exposed to the rationale for the design of online learning spaces through readings, expert videos, and examples. They are then asked to build an online learning space and explain the rationale and theory behind their design choices. They present and/or  share their design with the other learners.  It reinforces the concept that to be a good online instructor, one needs experience as an online student.

  • #17826

    Moira Sarsfield

    This sounds like an excellent activity.

    It is very immediate, with the learner’s experience in the online course feeding directly into their own course design while the “new learner” experience is fresh in their minds.

    By making the students discuss their design choices, you are reinforcing the underlying theories, and allowing the students to apply the theories in practice – very deep and authentic.

    I like that the students can select their own platforms/tools. This will give the class exposure to many different options, and allow them to consider the benefits and drawbacks of each.

    At what stage(s) will the students show their work and receive feedback? It would be good to have regular input, so they don’t progress too far down a blind alley. Also, the students will learn a great deal from viewing each other’s work, which can feed forward into their own designs.

    Some things to consider, especially if assessment is going to happen in the student-built spaces – accessibility issues, issues about data security, authentication.

    I would certainly enjoy this course, as a learner, and I think I would gain a lot from it.

    • #25192


      I really like the rationale for your online course James. The activity which involves building an online space sounds great, but very challenging for some (definitely for me!) what sort of preparatory activities will build up to this?

  • #17983

    Teresa MacKinnon

    I applaud the starting point here James, there’s no better way to appreciate the online experience for learners than by participating as a learner yourself, especially if you capture the feelings you encounter on the way. There are many misconceptions of e-learning ( I would just call it learning personally!) as illustrated by this recent article in the Guardian. When I first set up our moodle VLE staff were invited to participate in a course. However, getting them engaged was really difficult (apart from the technophiles) until there was a clear management message that all students would be expecting online resources for their teaching. I am not sure we would be able to get them to justify their course design choices although it would be interesting to do so, we do encourage showcasing of effective courses. I also ensure that they get to hear of relevant online opportunities for language teaching such as the virtual round table webinars. We take a Community of Practice approach (Wenger) although in practice it is currently more of a collection of different communities relating to language groups or tool use. Constant work in progress 🙂


  • #18525


    Hi James. I agree with the others here that your learning while/by doing approach is an excellent one. This is the reason I’m doing ocTEL myself: I’m building lots of content knowledge, but I’m also having the experience of being an online student, and from that, learning what is effective and what isn’t from a user point of view.


    Like Moira, I think that regular feedback will be essential, from you as well as from peers. It would be good to have a ‘test drive’ session two days into the course in which students test specific aspects of each others’ design ideas and give constructive feedback. This would add an action research element to their design.

  • #25259

    guy saward

    James, great post and nice design.  Like C, being here in ocTEL is a way of reflecting on the online student experience, as well as being a good place to meet informative people and have a chance to think.

    And today’s thought, inspired by Jo’s recent reply (shown in the right activity pane) is how difficult it is to keep up with everything that is going on – particularly in a (social) connectivist course!

    Which is why I think Moira’s comment on feedback is useful, as is C’s comment about peer review.  Its only by living with a design that one truely gets a sense of how workable it might be and what the key issues are.

  • #25372

    Rose Heaney

    I agree with the other comments that this is a great concept – learning to teach online while also being a student. However I would sound a note of caution – have you ever run this Jim? It sounds highly ambitious to expect GTAs, who are new to teaching generally, to digest all the concepts, get to grips with being a an online learner, design a learning space from scratch, engage in peer review etc – all in 5 days. Are the 5 days contiguous or spread over a period of weeks? If the latter that would be more manageable possibly.

    What do others think? Or have I got the wrong end of the stick?

    • #25749

      James Kerr

      @Rose-Due to limitations from our uni re: scheduling, enrolling, and awarding credit, students have 7 weeks in which to complete the 5 days of the class. In practice, we have found that the students tend to wait until near the end of the 7 week term to start it (shocking, right?) and then proceed through it in 7 days or less. Part of the course involves peer feedback and discussion forums, so the 7-week term can make that a bit rough for those who start early, but the bulk of the students are at the tail end, so the community forms.  We are looking at branching this out to a faculty professional development module that would be run in a 5-day cohort group.

      @Ted-depending on where the students take the course, their creations may be available publicly. Our uni offers it as a VLE-hosted credit course and MOOC style through Apple iTunes U. The MOOC style uses public-facing resources, so in a roundabout way, yes.

      • #26096


        One thing that strikes me about learning to teach online by being an online learner is about modelling. When we are learning to teach in a classroom, we have had the experience of being taught by good and bad teachers, and we might observe or be observed by advanced teaching practitioners to support our development as rookie teachers. If learner-teachers are emulating really good teachers, they have something to build good practice on. If they have only experienced poor teaching and bad habits they will learn poor skills

        Have you thought about how modelling operates in your programme. OcTEL has got me wondering about how I could teach online. How are your students supported in this?

        • #26234

          James Kerr

          Modeling is extremely important to me, and definitely for this course. When I facilitate or teach, I try to keep the Cognitive Apprenticeship Model in mind, knowing that at varying levels, the learners are going to model my behaviors and practices. It does no one any good to try to teach sound online instruction practices by modeling poor behavior; “do as I say, not as I do” does not paint a complete picture of instruction. One must be the example of good instruction while teaching it.

  • #25432

    Ted O’Neill

    James, Any chance some of the GTAs would be willing to share their creations later?

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