First Online Teaching Experiences

In the April issue of the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Dianne Conrad of the University of New Brunswick has published her qualitative research on the reflections of novice online instructors. The research covers interviews with five new instructors, all using the WebCT platform in a university setting. The study uses Collins & Berge’s framework for facilitating interaction online.

Conrad notes that most of the instructors’ concerns were content-oriented, trying to ensure that enough content was delivered. There was little mention by the instructors on the student learning process, a hot topic amongst those using blogs in education. Conrad also notes the important role of instructors’ egos in the virtual classroom, and that online environments require a more learner-centred approach. Though not mentioned by Conrad, I find it interesting that all five instructors were men. Would the "content focus" have become more of "learner focus" with a different gender mix? How about with a different cultural mix?

One of the respondents made a comment about the limitations of the platform, in that the discussion fora were not searchable. This reinforces my opinion that any LMS/LCMS should be used in conjunction with a good CMS/Blog so that the conversation is less constrained by the technology [this open source blog is searchable, as are most others]. You need the right tool box, as well as the right pedagogical approaches.

Conrad’s study is a worthwhile read for anyone working with online instructors in an academic setting.

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