2020 has been quite a year. Even before the pandemic, the online course was growing by leaps and bounds. In 2018, nearly 7 million people were enrolled in accredited online courses in the United States, according to the National Clearing House for Education Statistics. This number does not include private or non-accredited training programs. It has been estimated that in late Spring 2020 over 90% of students have at some point taken classes online because of the virus. But with all of these changes, I thought it would be interesting to compare what teachers and students think about online teaching since the dust settled…or maybe shock and transition a bit.
I started browsing blog posts and articles about what teachers and students were saying about online teaching in 2020 and here is a small portion of what I found.
1. Teachers were shocked at how much work online teaching was and can be. Many teachers said they had never before compared an online course to a traditional course in terms of content and workload. They were surprised at the amount of research required to create the course, how long it took to develop the course, and that their personal teaching activities didn’t always work well in this format. They took a long time to learn the learning management or delivery system and were surprised at the amount of time it took to get back to students, grade assignments, and posts/discussion forums.
2. The teachers were also surprised at the differences in communication. Building presence and relationships and providing timely and appropriate feedback varied widely.
3. Technology overload. For teachers who are just starting out, it can be so overwhelming to sift through all the wonderful and cool technology tools out there. It can also be overwhelming to think about technology you’ve never used before, design directions, and accessibility compliance. Most came to the realization that they were consuming enough to get the job done and be effective.
4. When the teachers are tired, what about the students? Teachers were at a loss as to how to engage and interest students virtually or online. It was a big learning curve figuring out how to get students to complete assignments, attend class, and stay motivated. Many recognized that deadlines, flexibility and consistency were essential. Many teachers highlighted the importance of checking in with students throughout the course and sharing ideas, concerns, and thoughts with other peers. Use your school and other colleagues to offer tips, advice and insights about online teaching.
1. Students generally enjoyed learning at their own pace, especially when they were in a different time zone.
2. They wanted the instructors to provide more clarity or direction in instructions and expectations. They also wanted more virtual office hours to ask questions, rather than via email. Students also asked for more timely feedback.
3. Too much work! Not all students have access to fast internet services, making it difficult to take tests and final exams. Some instructors break tests into smaller tests, but this increases student workload throughout the week. It is also important for teachers to estimate how much time it will take students to complete reading and assignments correctly.
4. I need a break please. Zoom fatigue is real. Students asked for breaks from the webcam, opportunities to stretch, or engage in another activity to break up lectures. They also asked for different types of activities so it wasn’t always the same.
5. Students wanted to have social interactions with their peers. One benefit of online courses is that students can interact with other students that they may not have had before. Many students reported that the class discussions helped them to engage with the material while promoting social contact.
6. Show your personality. Students actually like it when your dog barks or there is something interesting going on in the background. They want to build and form relationships with you. Sharing parts of your personality and life is one way to do that. It also encourages perseverance and participation.
Teachers are under a lot of pressure to deliver quality education correctly. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many educators to teach online in ways they never thought possible in their wildest dreams. The silver lining when looking at both sides of the coin is that students don’t seem to be looking for perfection, they are still looking for a social and engaging learning experience. They want to get to know you and want you to keep their interest. So teachers don’t get angry. Keep going with what you are doing and offering courses as best as you can. Use the resources you have and reach out to peers or experts to help you get through this. Students seem to be learning well and adapting.
Thanks to Melissa A. Andrews