I am teaching „Methods of Empirical Social Research“ at SIBE. This is my first experience as a teacher on an asynchronous online platform.
Teaching online is a different ball game all together compared to teaching in a classroom. In a classroom scenario, it is comparatively easier to connect with students and communicate a concept. The situation is different in online format. The biggest challenge that I felt in online teaching was is to ensure that students are involved in the learning process and engaged in valid discussions on the portal. In my view it is imperative to meet students on skype or on a phone call to build a personal connect and understand if they are going through any academic issues/problems.
Unlike in a classroom where my role as a teacher was mostly confined to the classroom, here in an online format, I had to check the posts on the portal and ensure that the discussions are moving in right direction. This was a completely different experience at all.
I believe a good teacher is a not only a great subject matter expert, but also a person with great communication skills and he is able to create humor in the class. Now this is a challenge to create humor in an online environment, especially in an asynchronous learning environment. Moderation of the discussions on online is also a challenge. However, to overcome this, an instructor has to make sure that he makes his presence felt on the discussions and guides the group in a logical direction.
Despite the obvious drawbacks, I think, online teaching is a brilliant way to connect people on different parts of the country/world in an academic environment. Technology has made it possible and may be this is the future of higher education. It does not require the instructor and the students to be present at the same time. Hence, it creates a great comfort and convenience to the participants as they learn while they are working.
What did surprise you about teaching online? Do you think it is difficult to teach online, when you cannot meet your students in person?
It was definitely challenging, if not difficult, to start teaching online. For a person like me, who loves to talk in the class and engage students in a moderated discussion, it was certainly surprising that I will not be talking at all while the students have to read/learn from the material posted on the forum. So for me, it was little bit of disconnect from the students when I started the first Unit. But from the subsequent unit, once I started interacting with the students on skype, the experience was completely different. I had a face to the posts on the discussion board and the platform did not seem to be that impersonal. Rather I could relate to all the discussions on the portal as if I am not reading a post, but listening to the student. So retrospectively, I feel it is a myth that we cannot engage with students on an online platform, though the tactics are different from teaching in a classroom.
So in my opinion, it is not difficult, but certainly different and needs different skillsets that the instructor must acquire in due course of time to be a good instructor.