5 Pitfalls of Online Teaching

Female student looking frustrated with books and computer

I took my first series of online courses for professional development in 2009. The courses were highly interactively and well-designed because they were taught by experts in the field of computer-assisted language learning. A shout-out to my professors in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate program, Principles and Practices of Online Teaching! (See blog on this topic). Ever since then, I’ve compared online courses to those.

As a working instructional designer and current PhD student enrolled in online courses, I bring a well-rounded perspective to the topic of distance education. I’ve researched and written about how to develop an online community of inquiry. It has become my personal agenda to ensure that students taking online courses don’t get frustrated from the course design and lack of social presence and teacher presence.

Here’s a list of what I consider the top 5 pitfalls that will surely decrease student learning outcomes and student satisfaction:

  1. Lack of pattern in weekly assignments will cause confusion, especially in a hybrid (blended) course. For example, as you plan threaded discussions, quizzes, and assignments, make sure they follow a pattern. Otherwise, indicate on your syllabus any gaps in the established pattern of assignments.
  2. Numerous clicks to find content leads to frustration. To increase findability, use clear navigation practices to reduce time lost on task and frustration levels (Simunich, Robins, & Kelly, 2012).
  3. Lack of synchronous sessions to connect with the human leads to reduced achievement. To increase student achievement, include synchronous sessions (Bernard et al., 2009). Arbaugh and Hornik (2006) suggested video conferencing, voice messaging, or some other types of multimedia.
  4. Instructors not responding to students’ discussions in a timely manner could cause missed learning opportunities. There are several theories on human learning about delivering targeted instruction at the right time such as Vygotsky’s (1978) zone of proximal development that posits that a student can only attain so much without the assistance from others. Students need prompt feedback that targets their instructional needs (Arbaugh, 2001). See my blog post on instructor feedback for online courses.
  5. Lack of student-student interactions may decrease student satisfaction and student achievement (Bernard et al., 2004). Make sure students can talk to one another and share their finished projects.

Do you agree with my top 5?

References

Arbaugh, J. B. (2001). How instructor immediacy behaviors affect student satisfaction and learning in web-based courses. Business Communication Quarterly, 30, 42-54.

Arbaugh, J. B., & Hornik, S. (2006). Do Chickering and Gamson’s seven principles also apply to online MBAs? The Journal of Educators Online, 3(2), 1-18.

Bernard, R. M., Abrami, P. C., Borokhovski, E., Wade, C. A., Tamim, R., Surkes,  M. A., & Bethel, E. C. (2009). A meta-analysis of three types of ITs in distance education. Review of Educational Research, 79, 1243-1288.

Simunich, B., Robins, D., & Kelly, V. (2012). Does findability matter? Findability, student motivation, and self-efficacy in online courses.  Quality Matters (QM) Research Grant, Kent State University.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

CALL Resources on Diigo for Teacher Training

Previously posted on the TESOL blog on 31 October 2011 by Sandra Rogers

Do you Diigo?  To be honest, I signed up but never used the online social-bookmarking tool. Fortunately,  TESOL’s Computer-assisted Language Learning (CALL) Interest Section has been busy bookmarking some great online resources.  Dr. Elizabeth Hanson-Smith shared the Diigo CALL-IS Virtual Software List on the TESOL CALL Community: http://www.diigo.com/user/call_is_vsl.  This list contains tons of resources on various teaching topics! However, this post focuses only on the teacher-training videos.

Here are some of Dr. Hanson’s recommendation for teacher-training videos:

1. Bridge TEFL Videos Teach English:
A teacher training site with videos on how to work in a classroom. You have to register to login but can view three videos without registering.  Check out: “Breaking Bad Teaching Habits.” http://www.teflvideos.com/

2. Teacher Training PresentationsSchool of TEFL

These free videos generally show teachers at work in the classroom, leading games and activities, teaching vocabulary and grammar, assessing speech, co-teaching, etc.  These would be very useful for the teacher-in-training or for the old dog who would like to see some new tricks.  http://teachers.schooloftefl.com

3. Dr. Hanson’s personal favorite: From Good to Outstanding | Teachers TV

These wonderful videos take you from initial lessons to interviews with teachers and students to advice by the expert, and a view of how those lessons are put to use in the classrom. Amazingly good teacher training in 26 videos.  www.teachers.tv

4. TeacherTube Professional Development Videos

Like most items at TeacherTube, these videos are uneven in content and production values, but contain several real gems. You have to register/sign in.
http://www.teachertube.com/

5. BBC audio programs:
For teachers – Radio programmes: Innovations in Teaching
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/teachingenglish/radio/innovations.shtml

6. Arts Impact Teacher Training Video

“See the Arts Impact program in action as teachers participate in the summer institute and teach the arts in their classrooms. Hear comments from participating teachers and artist mentors.”  This is a very nice teacher training video if you are using drama and/or art in the classroom. Great ideas. www.arts-impact.org

7. YouTube Shaping the Way We Teach English: Introduction

This is a teacher training series funded by the U.S. government titled, “Shaping the Way We Teach English, Successful Practices Around the World.” These introductory materials
are designed for English as a foreign language educators. Professionally produced but excellent ideas can be applied in many circumstances.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLpwuQsNiLg

For more information on CALL related professional development resources, visit my page about the Electronic Village Online (EVO).

EVO: A Collaborative Professional Development Project

CALL Community Newsletter: Making Connections Highlights Members

Sandra has been teaching for 20 years. She’s actively involved with the Electronic Village Online (EVO) and currently serves on the coordination team. You may have read some of her CALL-related blogs on TESOL. She freelances for ETS.org and MuchEnough.com. In addition, Sandra runs a virtual nonprofit to help the unemployed find work on BrokeButNotForLong.org.

Affiliation: Teacherrogers Consulting

Years in the CALLIS: 2 years (2009-2011)

Q: Favorite platform?

A: Well, in the past newsletters this referred to the computer operating system. I use Windows XP, but it’s not really my favorite. As an online teacher, I’d like to add that my favorite learning management system platform is eCollege (Pearson).

Q: For you, what is the one indispensable tool/webpage?

A: That depends on my resources for the project. Camtasia Relay for screencasting with a budget because I can edit and add closed-captioning. Screenr.com for screencasting without a budget―no editing feature so you have to do retakes! Screencasters help you meet the standards for quality online instruction, such as virtual tours, lecture capturing, demonstrations, one-on-one specific help, and student presentations and/or intros.
Q: What is your most unexpected source of information about CALL?

A: I didn’t realize that the CALLIS helped create the Principles and Practices of Online Teaching certificate courses and that some of the CALL members actually teach the classes, too.

Q: What was your favorite CALL creation?

A: I’d have to say my e-portfolio blog that I created in Vance Stevens’ Multiliteracies EVO 2010 session. It has become my go-to place for everything I do―my landing strip! I blog about my trials and errors with integrating technology into education and post all of my projects there.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Besides training moderators as an EVO coordination team member, I’m also mentoring the PLN/PLE moderators for #2012evo. I continue to blog for TESOL, my eportfolio, and my nonprofit. For BrokeButNotForLong, Inc., I’ve decided to migrate all of our content to Google sites like Blogger for Blogging4Broke to save money. We recently received a Google grant for free AdWords, so you should be seeing more of Broke in online searches in a few months. For my own career, I’ve launched Teacherrogers Consulting for Literacy, Language & Social Media Solutions.

Q: What area would you like to see developed/researched?

A: I’ll echo what Andy Bowman said back in 2008: “More computer-like devices created specifically for language learning.” And I want to help create one, so give me a call!

Q: In a sentence, what advice would you give to a newbie starting out in CALL?

A: Take the Electronic Village Online free professional training in January!

Q: What is your funniest CALL-related incident?

A: OK, since Laine (Helaine) Marshall has a good sense of humor, I’d like to describe our first face-to-face encounter. I was running to a session at the TESOL convention in New Orleans when I passed her by. I turned around because I recognized her face from her thumbnail photos on Yahoo IM. She became a great mentor to me during my first attempt at moderating a session for EVO in 2009. However, I wasn’t sure it was her because of her petite stature. Laine had become such a giant in my mind that I didn’t expect her to be so small! I explained this to her, and we both laughed because she didn’t expect me to be so tall.

Link to full article: http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/tesolcallis/issues/2012-03-16/7.html

Join Your Professional Organization

(This blog was previously posted in 2010 on Blogging4Broke, a nonprofit career advice blog.)

My professional association

A simple and dynamic way to reconnect with your career choice is to join the professional organization associated with that type of job. For example, I’m an educator who specializes in teaching English, as a second language. The professional organization associated with my career is called TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). For less than 100 dollars, I renewed my TESOL membership. Since then I’ve been able to learn about the latest research in the field, training opportunities, and job announcements.

When I first joined, they asked me to select from various interest sections, email listserves. I signed up for several and was flooded with emails. Then I went back and revised my areas of interest to get more specific information that pertained to my needs. That’s when I read an announcement from an individual looking for assistance in moderating an online, volunteer TESOL professional development session of the Computer-assisted Language Learning Interest Section (CALL-IS). I responded immediately and took the necessary moderator training to teach the session. I taught the six-week session and felt pleased to be a part of my professional organization once again, even as a volunteer.

Secondly, you often feel isolated from peer interaction when you’re looking for work. By joining TESOL, I connected with peers from around the world via the listserve, training, and now through teaching. I’ve learned from my peers via informal training, and also took a formal course offered for a certificate program. It’s been wonderful to add new technology skills and reevaluate my teaching methodology to include that of the online facilitator. Furthermore, the experience forced me to revise my job search documents related to my teaching philosophy, resume, and cover letter.

Thirdly, professional organizations provide you with access to conferences regionally, nationally, and internationally. Most professional conferences hold a job market during the convention. Last spring, TESOL, offered reduced rates on what they called their “stimulus plan.” TESOL plans to offer membership deals in the future. Perhaps your profession offers reduced costs to attend their conferences or free webinars. You won’t know until you investigate. At least, look into joining an organization and read about their perks on the membership page. Maybe you think that $95 is too expensive right now since you’re unemployed…I’m here to tell you that it has really paid off as an investment in my career.

Furthermore, the mentor of our online training asked the trainees if anyone would be interested in presenting on the volunteer experience and the outcome of the session at the TESOL conference. Once again, I jumped at the opportunity and used my airline rewards miles to travel to the conference for free. While I was at the conference, I also collected free resources, volunteered, and attended as many presentations as possible. Plus, I was able to reconnect with former employers! This series of events came about simply by renewing my membership with my professional organization. I urge you to do the same. Good luck!

Here’s a link to the various TESOL Interest Sections: http://www.tesol.org/s_tesol/sec_document.asp?CID=161&DID=550

Sandra Annette Rogers, PhD

We created a Wiki for our TESOL Intersection Presentation

How can 7 people plan a presentation for a TESOL Intersection?  By using Google Docs, wikis, emails, and Skype.  If you can’t make it to our TESOL 2011 presentation, you can visit our wiki and see all the details.  This intersection is between the Computer-assisted Language Learning (CALL-IS) and Elementary Education Interest Sections.  Additionally, you can hear the webcast recording that will be hosted on the CALL-IS wiki.  See info about my schedule at TESOL in a previous blog.

http://esoltechprep.pbworks.com/w/page/36440308/FrontPage

Web cast recording of this session:
https://sas.elluminate.com/site/external/jwsdetect/playback.jnlp?psid=2011-03-18.0719.M.7AE801FFB697DA460D4BF25AA8C21B.vcr&sid=75

I’d love to answer questions or discuss your feedback.

Sandra Rogers

Blogging for the TESOL 2011 Convention!

I’ve been professionally blogging since 2009, so when TESOL asked for bloggers for their annual convention, I sent them my bio.  I was delighted to find out that I was one of six people selected!  Right away, I thought of ideas to blog: jobs, financial aid opportunities, superstar encounters, and professional development. Since then, I’ve been asked to stay on as a blogger.  Here’s a link to the following blog posts:

http://blog.tesol.org/author/srogers

1. TESOL Rock Stars

2. TESOL Financial Aid Opportunities

3. Great Job Opportunities at TESOL’s Marketplace: Part 1

4.  Great Job Opportunities at TESOL: Volunteer for the Peace Corps (Part 2)

5. Webcasts for those not attending TESOL

6. EVO Provides Free Professional Development Annually

7.   Japanese ESL Teacher Who Experienced Earthquake Determined to Attend TESOL

8. Did you find a job at the TESOL Marketplace? (Part 3)

9.  How to Use Paper.li to Enhance Your PLN

10.  EVO is for Newbies and Techies Alike

11. CALL Resources on Diigo for Teacher Training

12. 3 Basic Tech Tools for Beginning Online Teachers

13. Vote For EVO as a Top Tech Innovator on the Chronicle

14. Another Basic Tech Tool for Online Teachers: The World Clock

15. Join Your Organization

My humorous blog about the TESOL Rock Stars has garnered the most attention.  I even had TEFL International retweet my blog with a “congrats”.  I’d love to hear your feedback.

Your Blogger,

Sandra Annette Rogers