Entering the online classroom

Online courses are increasingly more commonplace (for distance education, continuing studies or as one way to deal with large classes and a rise in student population) but many of us are still wary. If you are heading into the virtual classroom this fall, and are a little concerned about how best to approach this new territory, there are many resources available. From simple helpful hints to the advent of Teaching Machines, there is a lot of information to sift through when it comes to online learning.

Online Learning at the University of Toronto
The CTSI web site offers information and resources (including accessibility guidelines and help with online course design) in the Online Instructor Toolkit. We also highlight Innovations at the University of Toronto – profiles of instructors and departments who have already made headway in working online and connecting with students.

Expert Advice
Not too surprisingly, there are a number of websites and blogs that discuss the ups and downs of leading an online course. An internet search will quickly turn up many examples but we’ve selected a few to look at: 

  • Adam Chapnick, who teaches at the Canadian Forces College, wrote a blog for University Affairs called Virtually Learning about his experiences creating and running an online course.
  • In a series of columns for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Frank Donoghue, an associate professor at Ohio State University, discusses the merits and demerits on online classrooms.
  • The Sloan Consortium offers online resources, workshops, conferences and teaching certificates. Much of the information is available for free but the workshops, etc. do cost money.
  • Educause, a “non-profit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology,” provides a number of articles, discussions and research papers on online teaching and learning from a variety of perspectives, including An Instructional Design Approach to Updating an Online Course.

There are so many more resources available online (and I’m sure that a dozen more were posted in the time it took me to write this) that cover this topic from the perspective of the instructor. However, I’m curious about the students’ perspective on online learning. How are they reacting to the hybrid or fully online course? When universities are so concerned with student engagement (and for good reason), do the students still feel involved when they are no longer in the traditional brick-and-mortar classroom? I’m starting to think that this topic is much larger than one post can handle….

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