Welcome to Humanizing Online Learning by Michelle Pacansky-Brock

Dear Colleagues,

I have been teaching this class for CSU Channel Islands for two and a half years. It is the first class in the 3-class Online Teaching Preparation Program (OTPP), provided by Teaching and Learning Innovations at CI. It brings me great joy to engage online instructors in a meaningful reflection about the vital role they play in their students' learning. Sometimes online teaching gets a bad rap. And sometimes our own experiences learning online have set a particular tone for what we expect online teaching to be. As you embark upon this class, let go of all of these perceptions, focus on what the research has shown, and understand that you -- the course instructor -- are the single most important factor in a students' successful online learning experience.

I started teaching online around 2003. It was not a great experience. I had never taken an online class and really didn't understand what the student experience was like. I spent a great deal of time organizing my content and relied squarely on the discussion forum for student-student interactions. I observed a great deal of redundancy in the student comments (I now realize that was due to my lack of knowledge about how to craft discussion questions) and I felt very disconnected from my students. I wasn't proud of my class and I did not like that feeling.

I started experimenting with new technologies. VoiceThread changed everything about the way I approached my online (and soon face-to-face) teaching. I continued to post announcements and started to record them in audio, providing students with a choice about how they would experience them. The more voice and video communications I integrated (while being sensitive to the need to keep the class asynchronous to support students' busy schedules), the stronger our community became.

In this class, I try to provide the type of faculty development experience I wish I had prior to starting to teach online. I also want to share the things I've learned over the past 10+ years with you. I try to structure this class enough so it's clear and logical, but leave ample room for creativity. Experimentation and risk-taking is an essential piece of developing your digital literacy, as an online instructor. By trying new technologies and making stuff, you will gain confidence in your abilities and begin to try things you did not realize were possible.

As you experiment, you'll feel silly at times -- especially if this class is your first time recording a video. A webcam is a strange "face" to look at as you speak. But these odd feelings will soon diminish and you'll begin to realize that the technologies you use in this class are pathways to bringing your rich, human presence to your students. They need you. They don't need a perfect, polished performance. They need you. You are not perfect. And that's ok.

I expect that some of you will feel overwhelmed in this class. That's ok. Know that it's completely normal. Give yourself time to find your way. Take things one step at a time. If you need more time for a particular assignment, contact me. I'm here to support your growth and development -- but also to push you to ensure you accomplish your goals.

The more you experiment in this class, the more you will learn. You will not be judged. You will be expected to goof up, because making mistakes is how we learn. We are all together in this journey. Let's get started.

Created By
Michelle Pacansky Brock

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