“Education is the kindling of a flame. Not the filling of a vessel.” – Socrates
Student centered learning is the main stated mission for California State University – Channel Islands (CSUCI). This is a lofty goal and is often a challenge to implement. Less planning is required when creating an instructor driven lecture that requires little to no input from the students. To create an environment where students are actively engaged in their learning requires a more creative and thoughtful approach.
The Online Teaching Preparation Program (OTPP) offered at CSUCI is a 6 week course on designing, humanizing and creating an engaging online course. In reality, OTPP is really a crash course on effective teaching for both online and physical classroom settings. This is simply because without good teachings skills online courses fail – students become disengaged, learning objectives are not met and quality educational time is lost. From my experience, taking the OTPP has enhanced and improved the quality of all of my classes; including my physical classroom courses and my online general elective chemistry course, Chemistry and Society.
Best & Current Teaching Practices
Below is a brief and not comprehensive list of teaching practices covered by the OTPP. When utilized, these skills can improve any course regardless of its online or physical setting.
- Writing clear and effective rubrics and assignments using key terms from Bloom’s Taxonomy.
- Planning course schedule to align with desired learning objectives.
- Humanizing course to encourage empathy and social engagement.
- Creating an engaging environment to promote deep learning and student centered learning.
- Formatting a course to be built in a universal design for learning (UDL) framework.
- Utilizing resources to enhance the course.
- Designing lectures and/or educational materials in an effective fashion.
- Organizing course content.
A Little Technology Goes a Long Way
Once the best practices of teaching are being implemented, technology can then be used to enhance teaching skills and transform the learning environment to result in higher achievements. The following is a brief, non-comprehensive list of online teaching tools taught by the OTPP.
- Communication technology for office hours and discussions (e.g. ZOOM, Voicethread, discussion board and more).
- Group and/or individual project technology (e.g. Google docs and Adobe Spark).
- Online syllabus creation (e.g. Populr and Canva).
- Video creation (e.g. Adobe Spark).
- Online course platform (e.g. Canvas and Blackboard).
- Online etiquette.
Teach By Example
One of the most useful aspects of the OTPP is that it provides a good example of a successful online course. As a student of the OTPP course, I was able to identify teaching modalities that worked well for me. I then replicated these aspects into my own courses where I was the instructor. Overall, I highly recommend the OTPP. I am now a more effective instructor and my classes have become more student centered as a result of the knowledge I gained.