Are we alone in the Universe?


As I take some time to look back and reflect on my online teaching experience, I can’t avoid the feeling that, while it has been transformative in profoundly positive ways, it has been, frankly, lonely at times. We, as traditional face-to-face classroom instructors, have taken different paths to our teaching: an early vocation or a second career or may be just a meaningful complement to our “other” job; but after a few trials and errors, most probably we got our teaching “groove”, kept going, and became more effective face-to-face instructors with every class by just using our voice and presence, and maybe a white board and a marker.  

In my case, back in late 2010, another institution offered me the opportunity to teach a fully online course without previous experience and without providing me with any training. Go figure! I embraced the opportunity and, with very rudimentary tools (Moodle, Office and Skype) I did it… and it was very transformative, as I discovered the intimacy of those online forums that gave a voice to ALL students and those nocturnal online office hours that allowed me to get to know each student better than I knew some of my face to face ones. I also learned the hard way, that online teaching can be very time consuming and demanding, as there is this expectation that we are connected 24/7.

Fast forward 5 years, a few readings and online/blended classes later, and I am ready to say that online and blended teaching has changed the way I teach EVERY type of class. The offering for training at CI is top-notch. Thanks to these programs I have gained a much better command of online teaching principles. I have learned how to select and use many of the digital tools. Finally, and most importantly, I have affirmed the idea that sound pedagogy is independent of medium but  the digital medium opens new venues for transformative learning in all types of learning environments. So, in a constant feedback loop, my online/blended classes have helped me improve my face-to-face classes and vice versa.

Despite online teaching having many academic merits and growing in popularity and scope, online teaching can still be an isolating experience if you let it. After all, for both students and the professor, the experience entails many hours with your laptop physically remote from each other.

I kept asking myself the same questions: How easy to follow is my class design? How clear are the instructions for this assignment? Does that video that I recorded make sense? Does it achieve the goals? How well aligned are these activities with the unit’s expected learning outcomes? Are the students taking control of their own learning? What are the students taking away from this class? How can I do a better job next time around?

So, I looked at some standards for online teaching… I learned about Quality Matters (QM) and Quality Online Teaching & Learning  (QOLT) and started to wonder how these could help to improve my online and blended teaching.  They both provide a structured way to review the design and/or delivery of the courses, and they can be used as rubrics for self-assessment… but usually “it takes two to tango”, so the idea of bringing in another colleague’s voice and view in the review was very appealing and powerful. That’s what we are working on now at T&LI, running peer reviews that can make our blended and online courses more robust and effective for our students and building a support community that can make our teaching excel! We are not alone!

If you want to learn more about CI’s Online and Blended Peer Review Process, as well as the Blended Learning Preparation Program (BLPP) or the Online Teaching Preparation Program (OTPP), please join us on October 9th, (10 -11 am) for our first Teaching & Learning Community Gathering at the FIT Studio (Solano 1201) or virtually in Zoom.

You can RSVP here –

We are looking forward to seeing you!

Maria Ballesteros-Sola

Faculty Lead – Online & Blended Community


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