Laurence B. Boggess – Shifting Perspectives
I have been teaching in face-to-face classrooms at the K-12 and university levels for over 30 years. But it wasn’t until I began teaching online seven years ago that I realized what master online teachers already know: effective online teaching improves teaching in the face-to-face classroom.
This realization starts with the observation that online teaching is fundamentally different than face-to-face teaching due to distance, asynchronicity, and the digital environment. Further, course “authoring” is radically different than writing a syllabus and showing up week after week to make it come alive with words, assignments, and activities. The World Campus model is built on asynchronous learning, and for that learning to be effective, the course author must carefully choose, long before the course begins, every word of every week’s lesson, every assignment and assessment, and every video, reading, discussion question, direction, and grading scheme. The course must integrate content and design so tightly and with such quality that students can come to their lessons each week and navigate their learning. This front-loading not only benefits students but future instructors who “inherit” the course. These instructors can focus on teaching the content, sharing their expertise and knowledge, guiding discussions, assessing work, and otherwise personalizing the pre-written course.
In short, the online teacher needs to have his or her act together way longer before the first week of class. This is not to say I didn’t have my act together as a face-to-face classroom teacher. I did, but I also had the luxury of driving to class thinking about what exactly I wanted to say that day, improvising and changing an assignment, diverting to a new topic or chasing down tangents–all feeling free to do so but not always sure, upon reflection, I served the students well. I could think I was teaching up a storm, but, frankly, teaching was mostly about me. There were classes that went by when I did not hear from every student. I could not tell you with certainty that my students were learning in every class session.
Since teaching online, I am more mindful about the clarity of my instructions, the alignment of assignments with assessments and student learning outcomes, and the integrity of my course throughlines. I am more attentive to hearing every student’s voice in every class as is mandatory in online learning. I am more likely to use tools and apps from my online courses such as self and student-made videos, social media and discussion forums such as Yammer, flipped lessons, and open educational resources. I’ve also become more mindful of assigning group work, discerning between group assignments (division of labor) and team assignments (true collaborations and syntheses) — a distinction essential to get right online.
Ultimately, the most radical change to my face-to-face teaching is a shift of perspective. My highest priority now is not my own teaching but my students’ learning.
Laurence B. Boggess, Ph.D.
Director of Online Faculty Development
Penn State World Campus
How do you think your online teaching will influence your face-to-face teaching and vice versa?
Each original response to the question for the week must be at least 150 words long and specifically reference some concept or content reference in the coursework for the week.