My philosophy on teaching remains the same. My job is to serve the student through sharing the knowledge and experience I’ve accumulated, and guiding them in discovering their own knowledge. To do this, I need to develop courses around the student. Most of my students are adult or non-traditional students. They usually have work or family obligations outside of the class. Adult students expect clarity from instructors. They want simple, concise instructions to complete assigned work, explicit syllabi and learning goals, and step-by-step explanations from instructors. Adult students want an instructor who demonstrates respect, patience and caring, encouragement and availability (Bourdeaux & Schoenack, 2016). As an instructor, I can meet these needs by clearly stating expectations and providing detailed explanations. Showing the students how to do a task enables them to use their existing knowledge and apply it to a new, real-world situation. Being respectful means responding to student concerns or posting disclaimers when we are covering sensitive material. Respect is also extending a deadline when a student has a sick child or allowing students to submit work outside of the LMS. Timely grading and appropriate feedback also shows that I respect the students. An assignment has no meaning if the student does not know where he could improve.
My philosophy on learning has changed since I first began teaching adults. As an adjunct, my classes were face-to-face and it was easy to start with a general course outline and prepare the night (or sometimes the afternoon) before class. The LMS was simply a repository for resources and information. During class, I could see when students didn’t get a concept or needed a break. Students asked questions and received answers in the same session. Discussions could be steered to or from a topic with a quick suggestion from me. There was an immediacy, a presence, a vibe in the physical classroom that made teaching in person less challenging than teaching online. Since transitioning from face-to-face to online instruction, I believe social and teaching presences are critical elements necessary to replicate the physical, real-time interactions in a classroom.
In the Community of Inquiry model, these presences surround the student’s educational experience (Garrison, Anderson, and Archer, 2000). Time and distance separate students and the instructor in an asynchronous online classroom. Using welcome letters, video lectures and discussion forums promote the social aspect of learning. One of my students commented, “I like that the instructor was hands off in the discussion forum because the forum acted as a conduit to form individual opinions and participate (at will) with the opinions of others without the pressure of ‘getting it right.’” When I see feedback like this, I know I have met the social aspect of their online learning. Here, students are learning from each other. I might be guiding them through the content, but they are creating their own meaning rather than regurgitating mine. Timely grading and feedback will promote a student’s feeling of inclusion and help prevent social isolation in the online class. Depending on the student’s geographical location, adequate internet access may bar student participation (Parkes, Gregory, Fletcher, Adlington & Gromik, 2015). Instructors can alleviate this by providing content in multiple formats. If there is a video lecture, a transcript should be included so students can still access the content in times of low connectivity. By focusing on the students’ inclusion in the community and the effectiveness of the instructor, the physical classroom vibe is present in the online class.
Bourdeaux, R., & Schoenack, L. (2016). Adult Student Expectations and Experiences in an Online Learning Environment. Journal of Continuing Higher Education, 64(3), 152-161. doi: 10.1080/07377363.2016.1229072
Garrison, D.R., Anderson, T. & Archer, W. (2000). Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education, 2(2-3), 87-105. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1096-7516(00)00016-6
Parkes, M., Gregory, S., Fletcher, P., Adlington, R., & Gromik, N. (2015). Bringing people together while learning apart: Creating online learning environments to support the needs of rural and remote students. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 25 (1), 66—78.