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My biggest challenge in online teaching is...  

Use this thread to share your challenges or discuss the things you are seeking to improve.

My biggest challenge in online teaching is that I have no shortage of interesting ideas, but I am not sure how to translate them into the online course. In a face to face class it's easy to be flexible and to show up in class one morning and try something a little different. In my online course, everything is pretty well set up before the term begins and it limits spontaneous changes or experimental activities. I have changed the course over the years, but it seems to take a large effort to set up all the changes in the course platform.

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I second what Karin said--The course is set up ahead of time, and it's hard to bring current events into the class. I also get frustrated with the students who take an online class because it will be easier than a face-to-face class. They often aren't self-motivated and fall behind in the class. They also put off participating in the group discussions until the last minute, which impacts the other group members who are participating.

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I am sometimes frustrated with colleagues who still think online teaching is less legitimate than face-to-face teaching.

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I have given up on threaded discussions on-line -- maybe my numbers are the problem -- I often have 200-300 students in a class. That makes discussions quite redundant. And the platform (we use Blackboard) makes it harder to grade.

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is there any benefit to stating a window of time in which a threaded discussion can take place in an online class?

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Eleanor - wow, 200-300 students sounds like mayhem on one discussion board! You'd almost need to have sections like lab sections. Of course then you'd also need help monitoring all the various sections because that'd be a full time job in itself.

To Ann - yes, each of my discussions open and close at specific times. They last from 1-3 weeks, depending on the topic.

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I divide my large classes (120 students) into discussion groups of 6-10 students each, depending on the type of interaction required for the assignment.

My discussions last for one week only, then we move on to the next subject.

My biggest challenge is make students understand that the amount in my class is significantly more than in a classroom setting where the clock strikes the end of the class and everyone rises from their seats and leaves, whether they understand the material or not -- it was simply time to go. There is no "end of class" in the self-paced format of online classes. However, this aspect cuts both ways, some students do the bare minimum while a significant percentage of the class, especially the motivated students, do far more than necessary, causing some to complain about the many hours they spend online each week (by their own design).

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I can't imagine teaching a large online course! At Bowling Green State University, they set a maximum enrollment of 30 students in an online course. I raised the limit to 35 for the course I'm teaching starting Monday, and I already dread keeping up with all the discussion groups. BGSU also strongly encourages (and maybe even requires?) that you have activities, like discussion boards, where the students interact with each other and the instructor.

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My biggest challenge keeping me from putting my physical geology course online is labs. I am looking forward to learning some ideas about how to do this!

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Mel: I'm in the middle of creating a branched flash application to make a virtual mineral id lab. I don't even have a working prototype yet, but I can explain at least the storyboard for how it's going to work if you are interested. It won't solve all your problems with putting labs online, but I think the solution for you probably has to be piecewise anyway.

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Eliza-
I would be interested in what you are doing with the virtual mineral id lab. The director of our school would really like to have our physical geology with lab course online.

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I've used online components in my in-person classes, but so far have not taught a class entirely online.

I'm interested in hearing from those of you who do: how do you inspire enthusiasm for your subject matter while teaching an online course? How do you establish good connections with students who you never meet face-to-face?

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That's a great question Selby and this will be a topic of a live discussion on Thursday. I am going to start a new thread with this topic because I think it's crucial.

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My biggest challenge right now is just the nuts and bolts of taking a traditional FTF class online. I still learning about content delivery, and how the technology we use works, and how I go about getting my class approved to go online. I'm working through all the information my school has available online first, then will go work with the instructional development folks to get all the hoops jumped through.

In our physical sciences department, there is one oceanography class taught online, but no geology classes. One class I teach would be perfect for teaching online, so I'd like to be the first to take a geology class online.

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Hi Selby (and all),

I know there are lots of different ways to inspire enthusiasm among our online students but one of the common threads I see in my classes and in the activities that many of us are describing is getting students involved in doing something interesting: a case study, an interactive exercise, a virtual exploration, etc. It's my experience that once students are working on an activity questions will arise naturally and the amount and "depth" of discussions pick right up. There will always be students who are reluctant to participate in discussions or who resent that an online course often requires as much or more discipline and effort as a face-to-face course, but I find that if I take time to engage them in correspondence around an activity that even some of those students find they have something they want to contribute.

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This post was editted by Kelly Dilliard on Jun, 2010
I have used a lab manual and kit (rocks, minerals, and topographic map) geared for distance learning (published by Kendall/Hunt) as the starting point for my lab activities for my online Physical Geology course. It has worked out pretty well. It was always interesting to read the student's chat room discussions as they worked through the rocks and mineral labs in groups.

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My biggest challenge is getting the student's to understand the time commitment that they have to make to take an online, 4 credit, science course with a lab. I would get complaints from students about the amount of work involved... like "it took me over an hour to complete this lab" Of course I had designed it so that it would be similar to the 3 hour labs that our on campus students would have to take. There are many student's out there that think they have to log on once a week and spend less than an hour working on the course. I even make multiple statements in welcome letters, in the syllabus, and throughout the semester that this course takes time. URGH!!

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Eliza - I would definitely be interested! My activity for this session is on igneous rocks. I will eventually get to the minerals. I will be teaching an online 3 cr course that does not technically have a lab component, but I want to incorporate one with assignments.

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Yes Kelly! (re: time involved). Although I tend to think my face to face students also underestimate the amount of time they are supposed to be spending on something. I hear a lot of groaning when lab lasts 75 minutes (it's supposed to be 120 minutes).



One challenge I have is the sheer amount of reading involved to be successful both at teaching and at taking an online class. I find it really valuable to listen to and watch students in a classroom/lab setting and it's harder to observe them in a informal manner. It's also tough to just wade through the mounds of discussion and/or email that comes with an online class.

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My greatest task maintaining me from placing my actual physical geology course online is laboratories. I am awaiting studying some concepts about how to do this!
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