Today is my first day in the virtual classroom, teaching College Composition online. So far, I'm not liking it.
Other professors who have experience teaching online had warned me that a significant portion of the prep work needs to be completed before the semester begins, as opposed to addressing issues all throughout the class. The reason for this is twofold:
1) It's not going to come up in class. Any questions students might have about your writing expectations, how to find information on the site, what the goals are for the class ... these need to be clearly spelled out, in writing, from day one so that students feel comfortable (as much as they can), and like they know what they're getting themselves into. As a professor, I need to try and anticipate students' concerns and address them upfront.
Similarly, I need to provide samples of writing. When I say, "You need to write a comprehensive discussion board post for full credit," what does that even mean?!? As a student, I wouldn't have known how to interpret that. Therefore, since I won't be modeling the behavior during class, I need to demonstrate what I'm looking for before they even start the assignment, so they know what they're working towards.
2) To my mind, it's reasonable to assume that online students are busy people. I think there's a misconception of online students trying to "get away" with less work or less time spent in class. I'm sure that describes some of the online students, but the majority of students I've met who are taking online classes are doing so because they need to fit the classes into their schedules somehow. And between work, family, often second jobs, etc., online is their best option. Many of them say they wish they could be attending class in person, because it's easier to learn and collaborate and it also takes some of the responsibility off their shoulders in terms of remembering assignments and due dates. Showing up to a lecture is a lot easier than figuring out the material for yourself, I think.
So anyway, if you agree with they assumption that online students are busy, then you might also agree with me (and my more experienced contacts) that it's important to give online students longer deadlines, so they can fit in the readings and assignments around everything else. When planning my traditional classes and it went down to the wire (as it usually did), I knew that, at the very least, all I really needed to have is a lesson plan for the first day. Which isn't even a lesson plan; it's going over the syllabus and expectations. Instead, for the online course, I'm trying to have the first two weeks of lectures completed (as narrated PowerPoint presentations, which are taking me forever), as well as the first two weeks of assignments, quizzes and any other activities.
Point being, it's the first day of class and I'm really tired. I've only been getting 5-6 hours of sleep a night for the past week, once I started to realize there was no way I would finish all of this in time. I just barely got up the first lecture (plus a nearly hour-long Intro presentation that I hadn't even thought about before, introducing students to the class and the site). I'm hoping to have Week Two's lesson up by tomorrow, so that I can get on a regular schedule of having the Week 3 lesson posted the first day of Week 2. And now that the class has started, the grading will become a factor, too!
I have been assured that, once the online semester starts and class is moving along, it actually becomes much more manageable. I'm clinging onto this hope, because I definitely need the workload to lighten up a bit. Or else this isn't going to be much of a summer!