Which hat would you like me to wear? I’ve just finished (sort of) a full day teaching two university classes, had a meeting to discuss institutional curriculum, met with a steady stream of students with questions about events, clubs, film equipment to sign out, student assistant pay slips, graduation request forms, and job and internship inquiries.
I had ten minutes for lunch and somehow managed to break my glasses. My traditional, “offline” university has roughly 500 students and I am always on my toes.
I started teaching online courses in November 2014 and I now have 3, 200+ students from all over the world, from all walks of life with new ones enrolling in my courses daily. They review my courses publicly and so far (knock on wood), that has been a good thing.
Teaching to virtual students in a digital realm definitely has its ups and downs, that’s for sure. While I’ve been researching online teaching methods and 21st century learning technologies for over a year now, the type of online courses I have dipped my toe in to get started teaching has been the fairly static, video tutorial model via websites such as Udemy, Skillfeed, and Skillshare.
As much as I LOVE my offline, face-to-face students and the interaction we have in our traditional face-to-face classes, oddly enough it has been online teaching that has rekindled my love of teaching in general. L. O. V. E.
For one thing, with online teaching it’s ALL about one of my true passions: teaching. That might seem obvious, but ask any full time “offline” professor (not to mention program directors) what else they do besides teaching in a university and you will end up with a gigantic laundry list and possibly a sympathetic headache.
When teaching an online video tutorial type course, you have to be clear, you have to be interesting, and for best results, each video lesson should be preferably under 10 minutes each. Tip: Make them 5 minutes or under for best results in keeping online attention spans.
With this kind of online teaching it all boils down to, can I explain this concept in such a simple and clear way that someone could just play my prerecorded video lesson and understand what I am trying to convey without me also having to be there looking over their shoulder or offering counsel and tissues? (University professors ALWAYS have tissues in their offices for inevitable but unexpected student crises or breakdowns, especially for those of us teaching software and technology to technophobes.)
So, so far so good. I’ve made some incredible virtual friends who either are taking my online courses or are also online instructors as well. What tickles me is that they have the same concerns that my offline university colleagues have such as how to keep student interest, dealing with the occasional unhinged person in a class discussion (discussion forum for the online courses), and the inevitable squabbles found in every offline faculty meeting/online “faculty lounge.”
One unexpected perk of having started to teach online is that now I’m using my online courses as learning tools for my offline students. It’s so efficient really, as I get to have my cake and eat it too. I can assign my own video lessons along with readings as homework which the students actually appreciate as an extra resource, AND I get to open up what I’m teaching to the outside world at large.
I also get to do a virtual “tip jar” since three out of my four current online courses are for paying students. (My offline AUR students always get my courses for free of course.) What I particularly like though is through my own discretion, depending on the platform, I can offer my courses for free to all or free or discounted to students with special financial limitations or other special needs.
Anyway, it was only really possible to set up my shiny, new online courses while on winter break from my normal full time university job. I only have about an hour a week to devote to adding to or improving them during our busy semester, but I’m so glad I tried it because online teaching has been full of surprises. Mostly happy ones.
Of course, the next step is to start flirting with the idea of creating more interactive online offerings through traditional universities and expanding my video tutorial offerings in my so-called spare time. I wonder what other surprises await me when summer break comes.
If you’d like to see my new fabulous online colleagues and what they do, see our Udemy Women Rock Free Course: Make It Happen: Empowering Women For Success