It’s the end of the first week and the first round of assignments are due tomorrow. I carefully establish a due date calendar to schedule submission of assignments on Mondays by 5:00 p.m. Most online students have given me feedback that weekends are prime time for them to polish their writing before uploading the final product.
As part of my routine, I send out a series of reminders that Monday is due date day. Here is an example from the Announcement Board, Discussion Board, unit materials and all-class e-mail post:
Good afternoon English 1102 online students. I hope you are having a great weekend. Unit 3 is due tomorrow by 5:00 p.m. Many of you have already submitted the assignments in Unit 3, but I just thought I’d remind you of the due date.
If you haven’t e-mailed me your chosen topic and argumentative thesis statement, please do so as soon as possible. Once your thesis statement is approved, you may begin your source collection (see Unit 4 — book source and scholarly journal source).
If you have questions, I’m here to help: email@example.com
– Dr. Hubbard
Working for the weekend. Students lead busy lives. Most students I have met at College of DuPage work multiple jobs. They are car-campus-car students. They park their car, come to campus and leave right after their classes have ended, back to their car and off to work. But online students often don’t engage in a traditional commute. Instead, they elect to enroll in online courses and can click on and off our virtual campus anytime.
Being present in an online course is critical. However, screen fatigue is also a reality. I can often lose myself in online instruction and the clock grows wings. Have I really been staring at the screen for three hours? Did I miss lunch? Am I checking my phone again to see if students have posted their assignments? It’s a balance of time and energy. Teaching online should have parameters, but often the lines are blurred. Unlike a traditional face-to-face class where students are physically present and leave the room, an online or virtual classroom is always open.
I offer to look at multiple assignment drafts in order to fully participate and model the writing process with students. This can double or triple my workload, but I do enjoy reading, commenting and moving forward with students as their ideas develop. Brainstorming, drafting and revising are my mantra. But sometimes students think I have robotic superpowers and can produce suggested revisions in a nanosecond due to the “instant gratification” of being online. We are living in a generation of texting, pinging, and swiping. We move fast and this speed often transfers to online instruction.
This is a recent example of a requested immediate response from one of my online students. She had sent me 4 previous drafts which I looked at and commented upon, but the due date was looming and she was seeking additional assistance: “Here is my final draft. If you are checking up my email before 5 because I know that’s the due date time and around 4:30, please send me an email so I can correct my essay really fast and re-send you my final draft. Thank you. I would like to get 100% on this so please. Can you do it now? Thank you so much.” The product versus product approach is spotlighted in a unique way in online instruction.
Hooray for Friday! The weekend is here and we can kick back and relax, get away from it all and decompress. No, not when you teach online and especially when you are assigned an all online load. Teaching virtually doesn’t mean I wake up in my pajamas and lounge around all day. Teaching online is a 24-7 job. It involves constant contact and long, long, long hours. Teaching online is Work, yes — with a capital “W.”
Just this week I’ve logged over 60 hours and counting. And it won’t stop this weekend. Part of being online is being connected. Students expect a technological tether — a link to the teacher and fellow students in the class. It is up to me to foster that link and keep it strong throughout the semester. This means logging on multiple times a day, everyday, to check e-mail, post on Discussion Boards, update Announcements, listen to voicemail and serve on campus office hours. However, as every good online teacher at COD knows, the 10 contractual office hours don’t begin to scratch the surface when teaching online.
Online teaching is all of the time. Many students elect to enroll in online courses because of the flexibility. If they are working or managing their household, they can submit an assignment at 2:00 a.m. or 10:00 p.m. But they expect the teacher — their technological tether — to be there waiting on screen, no matter what time of the day or night.
When working in higher education there are a lot of buzz words thrown around: pedagogy, epistemology, student-centered learning. We fold these words into our discourse community and exchange them like cards in a game, shuffling the deck depending on whom we are speaking with or writing to. As an English teacher I love the use of language and have a passion for incorporating new words and meanings into my vernacular.
One word I’ve heard a lot lately is scaffolding. I associated this word with building or the process of laying brick or mortar, assembling a structure of sorts. My online students are engaging in scaffolding today. Most have eyeballed the course links in the main menu I have provided. They are building their knowledge and starting to work from the ground up by clicking on each link and exploring:
- Due Dates
- Course Material
- Discussion Board
- Awards and Accomplishments
- Outstanding Divisional Full-time Faculty Member 2014-2015
- Blackboard Exemplary Course Award Winner English 1102 Online
- Daily Herald Article — Blackboard Exemplary Course Award Winner English 1102 online
- Learning Technologies Faculty E-Portfolio Showcase
- Outstanding Full-Time Faculty Member 2015-2016 Award Nominee
- Student E-mail
- Send E-mail
- Blackboard Help
- COD Resources
- Library Resources
- Optional Information Literacy Modules
We’re only three days into a new semester and I feel like we need to hit the pause button. Learning to navigate an online class is like getting into a new car for the first time. I find myself fumbling for the features — where is the windshield wiper button? Cruise control? Do these doors automatically lock?
Of course it takes time to adjust and adapt, to feel comfortable in anything new. And online students are no exception. I have fielded several questions (too many to count) about requirements, materials, group discussions and technology.
Although College of DuPage establishes a solid online orientation program and detailed online course expectations on our website, some online students don’t necessarily dive in and hit the ground running right away, whereas others are immediately comfortable and already posting multiple assignments well before the due date. To teach and learn online takes time, patience and persistence.
Checking my class lists today:
English 0492 (16 weeks) has 15 students, but can enroll up to 20. I am expecting some students to enroll late, as this has been a trend in this course for years.
English 1102 (1st 8 weeks) has 22 students and filled several weeks ago (also expected with this research writing course — I often have at least 10-15 requests from students to add them to an already full section).
My other 2 sections (English 0482 and English 0492) start later in the semester (February 15th — 12 weeks). Today is an intense day of advising students and checking if they are enrolled in the “right” courses based on prerequisites, placement test scores and certificate or degree requirements. We use MyAccess as our database to store student records and I click on links for students’ test scores, unofficial transcripts and additional information in order to get a sense of why they enrolled in my English course. I send out a flurry of all-class e-mails and “Welcome to College of DuPage!” greetings on the Announcement Board today hoping each student will log in and start looking at the course materials.
One of the challenges in building and launching an online course is timing the assignments and due dates accordingly since I have multiple starting and stopping dates this term. Sometimes it feels like nailing jello to a wall as I try to coordinate all of the courses in a pace that keeps students motivated throughout the semester.
I designed English 0482 and English 1102 myself — building the course materials over several months, choosing textbooks, supplemental materials, YouTube links and producing video vignettes to anchor each unit. I am a visual learner and believe that online instruction should involve splashes of graphics and color from our collection of virtual paintbrushes. If online courses only offer text as the main source of information I think students will tune out (even those students who are avid Kindle readers). Online teaching is an opportunity to think outside the box and make the screen come alive. After all, this is the portal of communication — why not make it as appealing as possible? As teachers we have the creative freedom to gather our own materials based on our department’s course objectives. I pour a tremendous amount of time into course design and am constantly trying new ways to engage students in an online environment.
Hello! My name is Danica Hubbard and this is a snapshot of my family in Saugatuck, Michigan. My husband Brian and our two daughters Morgan and Madison are happiest outdoors hiking, running, biking or dancing on the beach. Whether we’re outside or inside, technology is a big part of our lives and this blog is about how I teach with technology.
I am a full-time English Professor at College of DuPage, a community college located in Glen Ellyn, Illinois with approximately 26,000 students currently enrolled. We offer more than 250 courses in 44 disciplines in online and hybrid formats covering a variety of subject areas. Students have the opportunity to earn certificates entirely online in programs like Early Childhood Education, Criminal Justice, Fire Science and Accounting or Associate Degrees in General Studies, Applied Science and Arts. Our online program is constantly growing as we offer outstanding access to resources, a rigorous curriculum, and good tuition value.
I have been teaching at COD for 22 years and have been part of our online program since the beginning. I teach a variety of classes in our Liberal Arts Division including English 1101 Composition, English 1102 Composition, English 1105 Writing for the Workplace, English 0482 Developmental Reading and English 0492 Developmental Writing. My teaching assignments are usually split between a few face-to-face classes and a few online classes.
But this semester we are trying something new. In collaboration with our Associate Dean Sheldon Walcher, he assigned me and my colleagues Jason Snart and Nicole Matos all online classes or a combination of hybrid and online classes during Spring 2016.
To celebrate this experience, I am recording a digital diary and plan to write about it for 116 days (yes, I’m including weekends). I’m expecting that teaching all online will welcome new challenges and successes with students, colleagues, administrators and staff and am looking forward to the journey.
Ready, set, go!