Reflections on my first semester teaching online

Starting to teach online is a big responsibility, especially when there is not an existing model for your discipline; in my case, foreign languages.  For most faculty, changing how we teach can be a very scary experience.

This semester, I am teaching my first online class and I have found myself feeling vulnerable and afraid of failure, much like I felt when I taught for the very first time.  Some of the self-doubting questions that I found myself pondering were:

“What if teaching online isn’t for me?”

“What if I am wrong about my course design, instructions, activities and assessments?”

Although I had these self-doubts, fortunately,  I did not feel alone in my journey. During the first few days of instruction, I received encouraging words and support from members of the Teaching and Learning Innovations team at CSU Channel Islands.

I am aware that the first weeks of online of an online class are crucial for both students and instructors, so I was connected at all time on the internet in order to “be there” for my students. Was it worth it? Yes, it was.  By engaging with my students, I discovered that although some students know what to do, they still want affirmation to know  they are on the right track. I realized that I shouldn’t be overly focused on whether my course design and instructions were perfect, because even if they are, I would still have students who would make me doubt myself.

Based upon these experiences, I have a few pieces of advice for new online instructors to consider for the first week of an online class.

  1. Expect a lot of emails from students.
  2. Make it a priority to keep track of the students who “check in” and complete the first online activities.
  3. Email the students  who do not engage to understand their situation.
  4. Guide and encourage those who intend to stay enrolled and advise those who don’t to drop the class.

During week three, I observed that students already knew what to do and were clear about my expectations. Through weeks four and five, I only received one email.

Feeling vulnerable and insecure can be stressful at first, but just remember that all the hard work, dedication, training and community support provided by the super heroes on theTeaching and Learning Innovations team will help. They are aware when you are doing something unique that is done well. Listen to their expertise and your online course will be great.

I encourage you to stop by the FIT studio and pitch your next big, crazy idea or if you need new ideas, they can help you brainstorm, create and achieve your goals.

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