This week my focus has been developing a virtual presence in the online course environment. In my face to face classroom on a Monday morning I can look across the tired faces and know I had better ramp up my excitement if I expect my students to get excited about what we are learning. In my face to face classroom at a glance I can see that “Jonny” is lost but does not want anyone else to know. How do I take 17 years of “Teacher Sense” and evolve into a Virtual “Teacher Sense”?
Through my course work this week in “Today’s Online Teacher” (offered free on The Canvas Network taught by the people at blendedschools.net ) that I introduced you all to in my first “JOT” post I have learned a lot about how a teacher may increase their presence in the online classroom. Virtual Presence happens in three modes, the social, the cognitive, and the teacher. I find all three of these modes helpful in creating the virtual teacher sense I find missing when I jump into the online world.
The Social presence is exactly what it sounds like. Get a community together much like we have done here in the DEN. This means a lot of work in the beginning getting to know each other. This can be done with icebreaker activities like sharing “fun facts” in a survey. I just recently had my webdesign students create an about.me page. I asked them to only use a background picture and a symbolic name. I wanted the name and picture to represent who they were at a glance.
The cognitive presence is where the instructor and hopefully the other class mates finds out how we all lean best in this virtual environment. This can be done with a survey or essay assignment like “What have I learned about myself as a ‘learner’ over the past x years of my education?” This information is useful in designing learning activities and when providing academic support.
The teacher presence occurs at two stages. The first stage is pre-course. In this stage the teacher sets up the expectations for the course. Such as course expectations document. In “Today’s Online Teacher” I was asked to make one and I was able to come up with a first draft. Feel free to use it and make some suggestions for me. The second stage comes in monitoring the students during the course. I had interesting discussion with two of my class mates (Daniel and Amy) about virtual attendance and late work submission. How do you deal with sick students? I think I needs some more time on that one, but I will post my thoughts on that later.
So all in all I have a start to evolving my “Virtual Teacher Sense” but from what I can tell so far I need to get a lot of contact with students to replace that single Monday morning look around the room. I need to make sure I have enough contact time with them individually and as a group to evolve my “teacher sense” into a “virtual teacher sense”. It took my 17 years to get teacher sense I have now so expecting this to happen without experience is not realistic. I am reaching out to you all my PLN (Personal Learning Network) for help in this. If you teach online what is your process? How do you develop that connection with kids virtually?