Top Five Myths of Teaching Online

1. I gotta use Blackboard.

No, you don’t, even if your institution sets you up a Bb or WebCT class and has a policy saying you must use it. Blackboard, or any course management system, is just a shell. There are a zillion features you’ll never use. Or maybe you’re an innovator who’d rather teach with blogs and wikis. Solutions:

  • Learn to use the Control Panel’s Course Menu to change all the buttons. Make invisible those features you won’t use. Remove them from Tools. This makes it easier for students anyway.
  • If you want to use the web inside your class, add Course Menu buttons and link out to the URLs of blogs, wikis, etc., being sure to tell students they’ll need to set up accounts. But the pages themselves will look like they’re in Blackboard unless you tell it to open them on a new screen.

2. It takes too much time.

That depends on how you organize, and what you want to do. It is a mistake to assume you must create the entire class before it starts, and have everything visible to students as they enter. Think in terms of it being a regular class, just online instead of in a physical classroom. The same time-savers and time-wasters come into play. Yes, there is a learning curve, so it may feel more like your first year of teaching than your tenth. If you are already web-savvy, this time is negligible. If not, make time first to play on the web.

3. It’s not like real teaching.

It is real teaching in every sense, from preparing class materials, to planning for interaction, grading, and expressing your professorial personality. If you don’t believe that, ask to sit in on an online class someone else is teaching. The trick is to set up a class that demands your online presence, and use every opportunity to create a classroom personality through the way you write and what you create. Some instructors need set times to go in and add to discussion or message students on their progress, so they’re always aware of what’s going on “in class”. Others are on the web anyway and “stop by” daily.

4. The students know more than I do.

If you mean cellphones and Facebook, yes, they just might. Although you could use these technologies to teach, it’s unlikely you’d choose to do so. Students’ superior kills in social interaction technologies do not translate directly into learning online, anymore than being socially popular translates to in-class performance. You know your discipline and you know how to teach more than they know how to learn, in any environment. And anything they know that you want to know, they’ll be delighted to teach you.

5. I don’t know how.

You can learn from others, or just get started. Create a class, planning it just like you would an on-site class. For every element you do in class, look in your course management system or search on the web to figure out how to do it online. Experimentation is key — you can’t break anything. Get technical help when and if you need it. Start small, and build more into your class after you teach it the first time.

4 comments to Top Five Myths of Teaching Online

  • Very sensible advice. But (apart from 3, perhaps) this applies to using digital technologies in bricks-and-mortar teaching situations, too.

  • Ah! Very true. There is a great deal of overlap, isn’t there?

  • I like that you pointed out that Blackboard is optional. I don’t use a LMS at all for my online course. I use a wiki, Google Docs, and a Ning network. I use only free tools and I believe that exposing my students to a number of different tools helps them to see possibilities for organizing their own, independent on-line learning.

  • Susan

    I so agree with your analysis of myth #3 – It’s not like real teaching. Hello!! Teaching is teaching. You still have to be an expert in your field…you still have students…all kinds of students. Struggling students, average students, and exceptional students…they are all in there. Real learning needs real teaching. If we expect results and learning from our students, we must expect to put in real time in preparing and teaching them. Thanks for pointing this out! 🙂