2020 was quite a year. Even before the pandemic, online course was growing leaps and bounds. In 2018, according to the National Clearing House for Education Statistics, there were almost 7 million people enrolled in accredited online courses in the United States. That number doesn’t include, private or non-credit training programs. It was estimated in late spring of 2020, over 90% of students were taking courses at some point online because of the virus. But with all these changes, I thought it would be interesting to compare what teachers and students thought about online teaching since the dust… or maybe shock and transition, has settled a little.
I started searching through blog posts and articles of what teachers and students were saying about online teaching/instruction in 2020 and here is a little of what I found.
- Teachers were shocked by how much work online teaching was and can be. Many teachers said that they had never compared an online course to a traditional course before as far as content and workload. They were surprised by how much research was involved to build the course, time it took to develop the course and that their in-person lesson activities didn’t always work well in that format. It took them a lot of time to learn the learning management or delivery system and were surprised by how much time it took to check in with students, grade assignments and posts/discussion boards.
- Teachers were also surprised at the differences in communication. Establishing presence and relationships and delivering timely and appropriate feedback were very different.
- Technology overload. For teachers that are just starting, it can be so overwhelming to sift through all of the wonderful and cool technology tools that are out there. It can also be overwhelming thinking about technology that you have never used before, instructional design issues and accessibility compliance. Most came to the realization that they used enough to get the job done and be effective.
- If the teachers are tired, what about the students? Teachers were perplexed by how to keep students engaged and interested virtually or online. There was a big learning curve figuring out how to get students to complete assignments, participate in class and stay motivated. Many realized that deadlines, flexibility and consistency were necessities. Many teachers listed the importance of checking in with students throughout the course as well as sharing ideas, concerns and thoughts with other colleagues. Utilize your school and other colleagues to offer tips, advice and insights about teaching online.
- Students generally liked learning at their own pace especially if they were in a different time zone.
- They wanted instructors to provide more clarity or direction in instructions and expectations. They also wanted more virtual office-hours to ask questions instead of through email. Students also asked for more timely feedback.
- Too much work! Not all students have access to fast internet services which made taking tests and finals difficult. Some instructors break testing down to smaller quizzes but this increases the workload for students through the week. It is also important for instructors to gauge how much time it takes students to complete readings and assignments correctly.
- I need a break please. Zoom fatigue is real. Students asked for breaks from the webcam, opportunities to stretch or do a different activity to break up lectures. They also asked for varied types of activities so that it wasn’t the same thing over and over.
- Students wanted to have social interactions with peers. A benefit of online courses is that students may interact with other students they might not have previously. Many students reported that class discussions helped them engage with the material while facilitating social connections.
- Show your Personality. Students actually like it when your dog is barking or that there was something interesting in the background. They want to build and form relationships with you. Sharing bits of your personality and life are ways that you can do that. It also encourages persistence and participation.
Teachers have a lot of pressure on them to deliver quality education correctly. The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many educators, who never in their wildest dreams thought they would, to teach online. The silver lining by looking at both sides of the coin is that students don’t seem to be looking for perfection, they are still looking for a social and engaging learning experience. They want to get to know you and want you to keep their interest. So, teachers don’t fret. Keep doing what you are doing and delivering courses the best way that you can. Utilize resources that you have and reach out to colleagues or experts to help you get through this. The students seem to be learning and adjusting just fine.