In the Fall of 2014, I mentioned to a colleague that I was preparing, for the first time, to teach two sections of writing 100% online. He responded, “Oh Shannon, you love the classroom so much, you’re going to miss interacting with your students.” My colleague’s reaction was, I think, not an uncommon one, but the idea that online teaching and rich student-teacher interaction are mutually exclusive couldn’t be further from the truth.
I design all my courses to harness the power of engagement. Writing is a personal and invested process, which makes teaching online a little extra challenging at times. However, I have found a balance between continual engagement and a consistent and straightforward course design that keeps students writing and coming back to see what’s next.
One way I engage my students in my online classes is by letting them get to know me. Each week, they hear my voice and often see my face; they know that I am actively involved in the class. For example, I prepare weekly check-ins and content videos using a variety of interactive applications like Adobe Spark, Powtoon, Prezi, and GoAnimate. For formative feedback, I give audio/visual screen capture comments through Tech Smith’s Jing. Students have told me that they like the variety of the content videos and that they feel like we are in a one-on-one conference when watching personalized feedback.
My online classes are also engaging because I get to know my students, and they get to know one another. I hold frequent synchronous chat sessions and online office hours and quickly turn around e-mails. I also expect student will engage in intra-class “participation.” For each module, students can “participate” by choosing from a variety of topical mini-tasks for extra practice. One of my favorite tools is H5P.org, which allows me to create and embed visually rich interactive quizzes and games. I also encourage peer-to-peer participation through optional topic-specific discussion boards where students direct the content. Students often say that they like knowing they can work through extra practice on key concepts and get feedback from peers
For me, one of the most exciting parts of teaching online is realizing how engagement really is at the heart of good teaching. However, engagement in any class—whether it’s face-to-face or online—is not something that comes automatically. Luckily, with some thought, some planning, and the help of some fantastic technological tools, great teaching in an online class is a reality.
What's New in the Office of Distance Education?
Meet Our New Online Support Specialist
Lauren holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, with a minor in Web Technology, from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. She was able to learn about Web Design and Social Media through her undergraduate coursework. Prior to working here in the Office of Distance Education, Lauren interned for a Fitness and Nutrition company where she helped manage their online community through social media. Lauren is excited to return to the WCU Community as an Online Support Specialist. She aims to use her experience with social media to foster an active online community. Lauren can be contacted at email@example.com or 610-436-3561.
WCU is Now a Participant in SARA!
On December 7th, 2016, West Chester University was approved to participate in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). SARA is an agreement among member states, districts, and territories which establishes a uniform set of guidelines and regulations with the intention of making it easier for students to take online courses offered by out-of-state institutions. Participating in SARA allows West Chester University to offer online programs to out-of-state students that live in any of the 48 member states and districts. The map below shows WCU's current State Authorization status. All of the green states are members of SARA.
If you have any questions about State Authorization, contact:
Online Program Highlights
Online Master's in Early Childhood Education Recognized by BestColleges.com
In a ranking released by BestColleges.com, West Chester University's Online Master's of Early Childhood Education Program ranked #6 in the United States! BestColleges.com states that the ranking was "based on the courses schools offer, available specializations, student outcomes, career support services, and other criteria used to determine academic excellence." You can find the complete ranking here.
Online Support Hours
The Office of Distance Education offers technical support to online faculty and students during the following hours: