Playing online: why online instructors should spend more time on the web

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In teaching a face-to-face class, even if we’ve never been in a particular classroom before, we know what to expect. There will be desks or tables for students, a chalkboard or whiteboard for presentation, and possibly technologies for demonstration or doing experiments. Image flickr cc f_a_r_e_w_e_l_l

We also know there will be people, students who arrive with different goals and expectations, who communicate in different ways, and who have varying skill levels. We know how to adapt the environment to our pedagogy, moving desks into a circle or placing students in a certain group. We also know we will be communicating with students as individuals and as a group. Students at GMU service learning
These are the same skills we need to take online.

Our advantage in a face-to-face classroom is that most of us grew up in classrooms. We’ve seen various physical configurations, different pedagogies, and a wide variety of colleagues. Image flickr cc Steve and Jemma Copley

If the web is our classroom online, we must explore a lot more to understand the environment and become comfortable with it. If we only use the internet for email and Facebook, and the web for shopping and looking things up, we’ve only spent time in one corner of the classroom (the corner with the bean bag chairs and the board games).

It is a mistake to assume that our younger students grew up in this classroom – they too have only spent time in the “fun corner”. The web is a wonderful place to learn, but not many people know how to use it for learning.

If they’ve taken an online class in a learning management system, they have been to another corner of the internet. This corner is closed, however. During class, they went to the one place to learn. When they finished their class, they couldn’t see their work anymore. Many online instructors are only trained to use an LMS, but starting with the system instead of the larger web is backward. The whole web is the real classroom.

Image flickr cc by Redden-McAllister Playing on the web can help us acquire skills such as navigating around a website, engaging in online conversations with others, working with options and settings, creating video and audio, and learning new vocabulary as we play. These skills make us better online instructors.

Image flickr cc by noil’s In this way, the web becomes our space, within which we can do all the things we know how to do: realize the curriculum, use effective teaching practices, bring students together. And that, after all, is what we’re here to do.

2 comments to Playing online: why online instructors should spend more time on the web

  • Cynthia Franklin

    Hi Lisa, Thanks for this posting. I’m beginning to see a bigger picture of what’s going on in learning on the web. I’m excited about the google reader and being able to use the NEXT button – even going mobile with that. Less excited about my own blog so far, but I’m going to work on it, thanks to Todd’s suggestions. Thanks for all your work on this class.