Teaching a class online this past week was quite an eye-opening experience for me. If you are reading this because you attended the class, please know that your participation, support and positive feedback was greatly appreciated. I didn’t realize in advance how scary and strange it would feel to pose questions to a group of people who I could not see, and having no idea if the audience was engaged or interested. There are so many non-verbal cues I depend on in the classroom setting. During my presentation, when I polled the group and got an immediate response, and when I got feedback via text-box or symbols, it was quite gratifying.
Using this first experience as a starting point, I plan to think about strategies to maximize the interactive features of online software before I teach a “real” class online. Although I’ve never used other software, I think the Wimba environment has many powerful features. I found that the polling feature was particularly helpful, as it demonstrated to me that everyone was listening and “connected.”
I’d like to comment on one other issue that resonated with me during class last week. I was strongly reminded how important it is that students are comfortable navigating the software platform before they can concentrate on content. I was also reminded of the dramatic impact technical problems can have on learning. When I lost connectivity for about ½ hour, I felt so frustrated. Although I called in by phone and was able to listen to the class while I tried to reconnect, I really couldn’t concentrate. I also have to admit that I have had difficulty transitioning between outside web sites and the Wimba classroom throughout this course. Although I thought I had it figured out, this past class I got stuck once again. I believe I will be quite sensitive in the future to students’ needs in the technical area. My own experience has taught me that even people who use computers daily in their life or work (me) may have difficulty navigating an online classroom or an unfamiliar environment. (Perhaps this is particularly true for many in my age group, the over 50 crowd.)