Master Tools and Technologies
Teaching online does require mastering some basic technology skills, along with a willingness to explore the integration of technology into your teaching practice to explore possibilities on how to more effectively or efficiently achieve your learning objectives, as well as the ability to reach out when you need help.
Most institutions have minimum system requirements and technical competencies required for faculty interested in teaching online, and students interested in taking online courses. You will at least need to have access to a computer as well as the Internet, and be able to develop skills and a level of comfort with the tools and technologies that your institution uses to deliver online courses.
Technology competencies for teaching online include:
- File management: Knowing how to create folders, save, upload, and download files, and organize student work (so that you can find it again), is integral to managing online instructor workload.
- Word processing: Most of us use word processing applications on a regular basis. When teaching online, the review functions, such as “track changes” and “add comments” come in handy when grading online student work and providing valuable feedback.
- Presentation: Applications like PowerPoint, Prezi, and Google Slides are excellent ways to share presentations and mini-lectures. By learning how to add audio to these presentations, these types of files can be easily converted to short videos and uploaded for students to review online.
- Web navigation: You will most likely want to locate and share online resources with your students when you teach online. Finding, evaluating the validity of, and citing these web resources are important skills to have.
- Grade reporting: Some institutions require that you enter grades outside of the learning management system (LMS). You will need to be able to locate, access, and use the grade reporting system to enter your final grades.
- Online library: If you are teaching ANY type of course, you should learn how to access the online library and locate articles and other resources. Check in with the librarians at your institution in advance of teaching online. They can help you determine the best approach to integrating library resources into your online course in the planning stages.
- Learning management system (LMS): Knowing how to navigate and use key functions in the learning management system are critical to succeeding as an online instructor.
In the LMS, you will want to at least know how to:
- Post the course syllabus.
- Access the course roster.
- Create and update course content pages.
- Add announcements.
- Send email and private course mail messages.
- Create and post to discussion forums.
- Manage student assignment submissions.
- Create and add questions to quizzes.
- Setup and use the grade book.
- Hold online office hours.
GOOD TO KNOW
These tools are not essential, but knowing how to use them will help you create an engaging online course, and help your online students meet their learning goals.
- Screencasting: These tools enable you to share and record what you’re doing on your screen. For example, you can show your students how to create a pivot table in Excel by recording a screencast as you actually perform that function.
- Social media: Integrating social media applications can be a bit tricky, so you may want to wait until you have some online teaching experience before fully integrating them into your online teaching practice. Social media applications do have the benefit of opening up channels for communication and collaboration, and building community within the online space.
- Mobile apps: Many online students use mobile devices (smart phones, tablets) on a regular basis, and are used to working with applications on these devices. As you evolve in your online teaching practices, exploring different mobile applications related to your subject area will come naturally – that is if you use mobile devices yourself! Be careful, as not all students use mobile devices, and not all information is secure on these devices.
If students need to have or master a specific tool or technology to succeed in your online course, you will need to take the time in the course planning stages to either check or find existing resources, or create new resources related to using that tool. For example, if your students need to learn how to do specific functions in Excel, you don’t want to wait until they ask questions mid-semester — you will want to make sure that you build activities into your online course to check or guide mastery of the skills required with the use of the application.
The most important skills you need to have related to tools and technology are knowing where to turn when you need help, and knowing where to send your students when they need help. It is also helpful to know where to find resources that can support your students when they are working on their own – all hours of the day. Check with the online faculty support or IT department at your institution to see what documentation, training, and help desk services are available for faculty teaching online, and students taking online courses. Here is a link to the Open SUNY HelpDesk.
There are so many variables involved when teaching online, and you can be sure that at some point, you or your students will encounter technology obstacles. The learning management system may not be available, you might lose internet access, you may misplace digital files, or a trusted resource that you linked to may no longer be available online.
The keys to success in working with tools and technologies for the online instructor are having backup plans and being flexible. A sense of humor at these times can also come in handy.
BELLS AND WHISTLES
Technology is, and always will be changing, and it is important that you do not become distracted by all of the “bells and whistles.” Teaching online does not mean keeping up with every new tool and technology that is available. Teaching online enables you to integrate the tools that support the way you want to teach in the online space, to provide content, encourage interaction, and perform authentic assessment in your online classes.
Remember, technology should not get in the way of your teaching, or student learning. That holds true in every teaching and learning environment!
MORE TO EXPLORE
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