As a student, I loved quick-paced classes because the pace ensured I would never feel bored. And if the pace got too quick, I could always ask the teacher to repeat something or answer a question that I had. For me, school was filled with dialogue, with peers and with my instructors. So when our department started offering online classes, I was glad that other people taught them. I could not even conceive of how I could teach an online class. But a few years back, one of my colleagues asked the calculus instructors to get certified in and use Etudes as our course management system in support of a grant she was running. The Etudes certification class was an online class. And by the time I finished it, I began to see how a person could develop an online community. So when my dean was looking for someone to teach an online calculus class, I did it. I spent many, many summer hours putting that class together. It was my best work and it was really far from perfect. There was a lot for me to learn there.
Teaching online DEFINITELY made my face-to-face classes better. I didn’t anticipate that. One quarter, I had a higher success rate in my online class. I didn’t anticipate that. I asked my online students why they chose online. “I have small children at home;” “It saves me driving to campus some days.” I had anticipated those reasons. What I didn’t anticipate included: “All the other sections were full;” “It’s the only way I can fit it into my class schedule;” “I like online classes.”
“I like online classes.”
“Hmm,” I’d respond. “What do you like about them?” In general, students responded that they liked the freedom of schedule. They could go at their own pace. They could work when they wanted to. When they needed more info, they could access videos. I heard them, but I never really understood until I enrolled this year in online classes myself. The single greatest part of online learning for me is that I’m always working at my edge. If something is easy, it gets done SUPER QUICKLY (no wasted time). If something is harder, I can take all the time I need, without worrying about continuing to listen to the teacher and getting “lost.”
I didn’t anticipate liking online learning. But I like it a lot!