Yes, I use the terribly inefficient word “good” purposely, for to define what makes a teacher “good,” you will first have to define your idea of “good,” and six years teaching at the college level has taught me nothing if not that if you ask 100 different students about a good teacher they’ve had, you’ll receive 100 different notions of good.
All this being said. I received my Faculty Course Questionnaires (FCQs) last week, from two years of teaching online. Students fill out FCQs at the end of the course; remember, those little bubble sheets, and the crummy little pencils that were never sharp? Anyway, my FCQ feedback was glowing, amazing, truly incredible. Suffice it to say that I have come to the conclusion that I am a better teacher online than I am face-to-face. Don’t get me wrong; because my passion is teaching, students pick up on that, and I have my fair share of very positive FCQs and feedback in the face-to-face classroom as well. But across the board, scores for what students have learned, teacher effectiveness, course overall, etc, are higher when I teach online.
Why might this be? What makes me so “good” online? Here’s a quick of my thoughts on the matter (oh, how I love bullet points):
- Students expect less of their instructor online, therefore they are thrilled when you respond to them positively, enthusiastically, and quickly.
- Students get lost easily, so they appreciate having lots of info online. In an online course, everything you need to know about the course is at their fingertips, and they can access it 24/7, including lectures. Having this library of knowledge is extremely useful for some students and the key to other students’ success. It’s all in the learning style.
- Students expect no personalization online, so they are intrigued when you take the time to learn about them and post pictures they have taken on the course home page. I used to call this the “class mascots” and asked for solely pet pics, but now I accept pics of my students’ kids, travels, backyards, etc. I change up this photo on my course home page once a week. A silly thing to do, perhaps, but I think students really love seeing their photo on the course page, and love contributing in this way.
- There’s no sense of me as the instructor wasting their time. In a classroom, students get bored easily. If it’s not digital or not sheer entertainment, most students zone out quickly, and resent the lectures (“too tedious”), the group work (“merely busy work”), the activities (“a waste of time”). In the online classroom, there’s the material, and the assignment, boom-boom. The instructor is removed, as it were, to let students tackle the course as they best see fit. I don’t get in their way as a disembodied and enthusiastic online presence.
- I also don’t say stupid sh*t online. In the classroom, discussions can get touchy (literature is about every aspect of life, after all, from sexuality to religion to politics to gender to every touchy subject you can think of), and no matter if I try to play devil’s advocate or simply moderate, chances are something I will say will offend someone at some time. Online, I have the chance to double- and triple-think about what I should type and how it should be communicated. I try to email and post nothing but predominately positive things. The chances to step on toes are extremely limited.
Speaking of learning styles (see bullet point 2), I recently came across some great websites to test your aptitude for digital learning, and to evaluate your learning style. It’s crucial that all of us, as lifetime learners, know how we learn. Enjoy!
Learning Style Assessment – http://marciaconner.com/assess/
How are you Smart? – http://www.literacyworks.org/mi/intro/index.html
How do I Learn Best? – http://www.vark-learn.com/english/page.asp?p=questionnaire
What do you think makes a good teacher? Are you a better teacher online or face-to-face?