Teaching online – two very different ways of looking at it

Feel compelled today to share a couple of articles around, both of which have been doing the rounds but which I think offer an interesting perspective on online teaching when viewed side by side.

The first is Kaye Shelton & George Saltsman’s “Tips and Tricks for Teaching Online: How to Teach Like a Pro!” and the second, Brent Muirhead’s “Contemporary Online Education Challenges“, both from the latest edition of the International Journal of Instructional Technology & Distance Learning.

What I get from these is really a pattern that seems to be apparent throughout on-the-ground online teaching and learning and also in a fair bit of the published literature, a kind of ‘practical’ vs. ‘pedagogy’, ‘tips’ vs. ‘theory’.

The first article is actually, despite the title, pretty well referenced and gives a good link into a lot of the literature. However, it comes from a, quite understandable, perspective where virtually (and literally in Australia) everyone (via Ray) is hooked into big ‘Learning’ Management Systems. Within these systems there are few other options than to strictly require attendance, sort out your welcome announcement, work the discussion boards in a reasonable manner (although I’m not sure of the advice that “an instructor should randomly and selectively reply to students”) , manage your virtual space and stick by these rules because anything else will result in failure.

(although I do note that email is also being used here… wait for that to disappear in your latest version though guys!)

In contrast the second by the ridiculously well qualified Brent Muirhead (I mean, how many people have a degree, 4 Masters & 2 PhDs… disorders anyone? ;o) works much more with the importance of context sensitive learning environments and an educational model “that provides adequate flexibility for instructors and students to freely interact.” Now, granted I also believe strongly in this but I think the way Muirhead distinguishes himself in dealing with this topic is by incorporating the regular ‘tips and tricks’ from an open and reasoned perspective which suggests, rather than proposing, that in our teaching online we need to be more considered and theoretically engaged with what it is we believe and where it is we want to go, without the hard and fasts that the prevelance of the WebCTs & BlackBoards of the world force us into.

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