Strategies on Becoming a Better Online Instructor Maythe Ruffino
When reflecting upon how the two week online course "Humanizing Online Learning" has affected me as an instructor (both online and face to face), I can adjectivize it with one word: transformative. It is not a tautology to teach online how to teach online rather a collaborative journey, where Dr. Michelle Pacansky, as facilitator, modeled in praxis the constructionist theoretical approach of empathetic, student centered, humanized online teaching.
The first lesson, and component of my transformative strategy on becoming a better online instructor is: empathy. Both cognitive and affective empathy as defined by Roman Krznaric, will allow me to be outrospective and build human bridges, social connections at intellectual and affective levels with my students that will make a positive impact in the way I can enable safe, positive, creative and respectful learning communities in my online courses. These communities will make the learning process meaningful and profound.
My second strategy is to practice outrospection, which will allow me to identify the "other" and her/his qualities in a compassionate and respectful way to see beyond cultural, intellectual or any type of differences and find the human commonality that unites us in the collaborative learning process.
Third, I will try to implement in practice the notion that UDL is not a static concept but rather a framework that should help instructors design online courses considering all types of students and their different backgrounds. I teach at CSU in two campuses (CSUCI & CSUN) where more than half of the population we serve are Latinos thus, identifying the majority of my student body and considering the challenges Latinos face, as presented in the case study made by Ray Kaupp in "Online Penalty: The Impact of Online Instruction on the Latino-White Achievement Gap" my UDL framework will be shaped using as many strategies and technologies necessary to accommodate their learning styles and needs. The lesson here is to identify who are you teaching, in order to design how are you teaching based on outrospection.
That's why the intro video for my Heritage Speakers course is all in Spanish. Take a look!
Fourth lesson: Instructor presence is not enough. In order to reach out, engage, motivate and help succeed online instructors need to humanize their presence, that is to show their social side. I learned in this course that to tell my own story will help students to also practice outrospection and empathy towards me and our learning community will become stronger.
Fifth lesson: Design activities in which several social dynamics take place between instructor and students, students with all other members, one student with several others, a group of students with instructor and instructor and student. All these collective social spaces should allow for every member to tell their story, build empathy and promote respect, interest and active and meaningful participation. Allow uniqueness to flourish in creative ways while commonality unites SLO's.
When the vivid picture of a student's life becomes evident to the learning community a human bond is created that can last a lifetime.
The adversity each has faced, our everyday life and cultural background differences can help us create a humanized learning environment.
Nevertheless, that safe and efficient space can only be created if there is an empathetic and resourceful instructor that allows for each member to share their story and learn in the most comfortable way each can do it.
Thus each course can mean not only a letter in a transcript but long-lasting knowledge that students will use and apply into their future.
Knowledge that will transform the world by transforming ourselves and our students to help humanity prevail despite all odds.
And as ironically proven in the article "The Power of Presence" by Dunlap, J.C., & Lowenthal, not always the most sophisticated technology provides the best outcomes, as it happened when wanted to assess the levels of social presence in their courses. Old and simple technologies as a hand written note...
a typed message...
...a phone call...
...a video message...
...or digitized social media messaging, can all do the job. It is not the level of sophistication in technology that creates a more humanized course but rather a more human instructor that uses well the technology that creates a humanized presence in the course and facilitates this presence to manifest in her students.
A dialectic social presence using whatever technology is at reach should be built based on principles of empathy, respect and reciprocity delivered through an instructor that is humanly present and allows for fluidity and transformation adapting and changing all is needed for students to succeed.