I will be teaching an online course on Globalization and Development this fall for the first time. Normally I like the challenge of learning something new. But due to the fact that I have been a skeptic about online learning and the fact that learning and involving technology tools is quite intimidating, I started this class with a rather heavy heart.
The topic of humanizing online learning has been the real essence of my skepticism about online learning. Even before I learned the term "instructor presence" in this class, I felt Michelle's presence and empathy every step of the way. She truly demonstrated the ideal of instructor presence. Ironically, her almost perfect presence, timely and kind communications, and her excellent course setup and assignments were so good, so that teaching online seemed even more daunting to me.
I learned a lot from other participants as well, particularly from those who have taught online courses before. Two specific ideas that I am taking away from their comments are the power of story telling to humanize the instructor presence and the cautionary tale about the balancing act between not-too-personal and personal-enough instructor presence.
Learning about social presence and Universal Design for Learning was valuable for both online and offline teaching. I really like the idea of collaborative learning as a community-building strategy. Creating a student assignment that becomes a part of the learning course materials is a potent way of encouraging student engagement and building a learning community
I feel that I just took a few steps in this journey of online learning and teaching. Learning technology tools is still challenging. Whenever the assignment requires creativity, my insecurity flares up. But I know that I have become an eager and active member of an online learning community now.