Online courses sound like a very recent phenomenon due to the pandemic, and it really is – even the most anti-online professors had to transition to the online context. I bet it would be very difficult for a professor who teaches the same material for the last 20 years with minimal virtualization. However, as Todd Tauber states, online education has been around for quite some time thanks to platforms such as Coursera, Edx, and Udemy. However, these platforms are not proven to be effective yet. Tauber states these platforms are not fulfilling its goal of building a “massively better-skilled workforce”. In other words, MOOCs are massive in quantity, but not quality.
I think this is a critic that we should make as the community of educators. However, this should not mean that online teaching cannot be effective. The big mistake here is the recontextualization. If we take the same teaching practices that are working in a traditional environment and transfer it to an LMS as videos and scanned pdf files, this is not enough. This is like moving a plant from the soil to water. The fact that a plant lives in the soil does not mean that it can live in water. Oftentimes plants die if they stay inside water for too long. Similarly, if in-person teaching practices are directly transferred to the online environment in the form of videos of in-person lectures, it is not going to work, which is the case of MOOCs. The reason for this is that the students will not engage in the same way when they are online. Therefore, educators need to make significant changes in their course design. This is what separates digital pedagogy from online teaching. Digital pedagogy covers the optimal use of all the affordances of digital platforms to make the learning effective for all students. Below I discuss three important aspects.
This is online, but you are not alone. I think it is very important that the teacher is always accessible. Social interaction is still an important part of the learning regardless of the context. The students need to know that someone is always there to help and guide them. This is an advantage that comes with the online environment. Also, horizontal learning should still be encouraged with discussion forums, group projects, and collaborations.
Lectures don’t work anymore. 1-hour long lecture recordings are not applicable in an online context. Bite-size content with concision is the key to engage the students in the content.
Don’t be a lecturer, be a leader. Once, a wise and very successful online teacher I know said that “I don’t teach students, I lead them.”. It sounded very strange to me, I asked: “How can I lead If I don’t teach?”, and he replied: “They don’t need me to learn, they need to go through the content.”. After a while, when I saw a quote, I recalled his words: