The following is a guest blog post by Deb Hardin. Deb is one of our online eLo Consumer Education instructors along with a teacher at Wheaton Warrenville South in Wheaton, IL. In this post, Deb reflects over her first year as an online instructor.
So here it is, New Years Eve and as many of us do, I am reflecting on the events of this past year. One of the challenges I took on was teaching an on-line class to high school students - eLo Consumer Education. I was thrilled with the opportunity, even though my colleagues found it intimidating and threatening to their current way of teaching. Change can be difficult, but being that I had worked in the business world for some time, I was used to changing and even embraced it. This class was certainly a change from what I had become accustomed.
It all started with, as you might guess - an on-line training class on how to communicate on-line. It's amazing how what you write can have a voice without you even knowing it. Soon came another on-line class on how to use the Learning Management System(LMS) - the communication tool we use to provide lessons, grades, messaging and forums for our students. I was ready to start; I couldn't wait, but that was not going to happen anytime soon. We still needed to select curriculum. Unfortunately, curriculum has not caught up with on-line teaching, so we didn't have many choices. Luckily, one of the eLo consortium schools had been using an on-line product that had proven effective - the only problem was that it wasn't functional inside our LMS. So we had to improvise - we provided a link to the curriculum inside our LMS.
Finally, our class was ready; all the pieces were there: students, lessons, and teacher. I was so excited and then nothing. Students were not submitting much of anything, with the exception of one super motivated young man. He was my bright light. I was surprised that most of the students were waiting until the last minute to complete their assignments. My best messages seemed as if they were being ignored. But most mornings after a due date I was inundated with work to grade. I guess I shouldn't be surprised - I'm writing this blog on the last day of December when I had all month to complete it. In the end, my students finished their work in a time frame that worked for them, which is usually why they took this class - the flexibility. This flexibility is what puts the student in the driver's seat and control of his/her learning.
I too, have had to learn to be flexible. My plan period has at times extended into the evening in order to talk to a student that is involved in every possible extra curricular and can not be reached until 8pm. During the last week of the class I had surgery. I hated being gone. I couldn't be sure my sub would get my face to face students through the end of the semester. However, I was still able to communicate with my on-line students. In the end, I can say I enjoyed every moment of getting to know these students and helping them through this class. On-line teaching isn't for everyone, but I can honestly say its one of the most challenging but best experiences I have had this year.