-8. How will instructors respond to e-learning?

- Teaching an e-learning course is, in fact, harder than teaching a classroom course.

- Instructors who have honed their skills toward the classroom experience will need to learn new "how to teach in an e-learning environment" skills.

Tell Me More

Teaching in an e-learning environment isn't easier—it's harder. For example, one challenge for an instructor in the classroom is to notice when a student is confused or falling behind. Instructors need to know how to do the same thing when running an e-learning class, and the fact is, it's not easy. Many experienced instructors might have been teaching successfully for years in the classroom, but they still have very little experience with teaching by means of e-learning.

Let's look at two typical examples of e-learning instruction:

Example 1: Synchronous E-Learning

With synchronous e-learning, the instructor and all the students meet at the same time and are connected by technology that acts like real-time interactive audio and video. The instructor and all the students can interact at least by voice, and the instructor's "chalk talking" can be communicated to the student as the instructor draws.

As instructors try this type of teaching, they find that oneway communicating, from the instructor to the student (lecture) can occur quite easily. However, answering questions by the students takes quite a bit longer than answering questions in a face-to-face classroom. And it's hard for the instructor to really tell if the whole class is following along, or if some of the students have fallen asleep, gone out for coffee, or are surfing the Web in another computer window.

Example 2: Asynchronous Collaboration

With asynchronous collaboration, instructors and students don't meet at exactly the same time. Instead, the instructor will post assignments in a team room, students will be expected to complete the assignments within a short period of time, and the instructor and students interact by exchanging messages that are posted to a bulletin board or team room. In this case, answering questions from the student can take hours or days, and the instructor has a very hard time keeping her finger on the pulse of the class. It's very difficult to tell which students are getting it and which are getting lost.

From these examples, we can see that the instructor will face some significant challenges, summarized in the following table.

Challenge

Consideration

New tools for teaching

Instructors no longer have a traditional, familiar classroom. Instead they are communicating via e-mail, via team rooms and bulletin boards, via recorded voice. They need to adapt a teaching style that works in the classroom so that it works remotely.

Instructors need to understand and be adept at the delivery technology without being distracted from their teaching role. They'll get questions about the course but

also questions from students who can't get the technology to work right for them—the instructor turns into part help-desk.

Time

Almost everything about teaching at a distance takes longer. Just opening all the student e-mail takes time. Giving thoughtful replies takes even more time: Most people can talk faster than they can type.

Student interaction

It's hard to tell whether e-learning students are really "getting it." In the traditional classroom, instructors have many techniques for telling if the class is really following along with them. Just figuring out the needs of distant students without face-to-face contact is very hard at first.

Face-to-face feedback (e.g., students' questions, comments, body language, and facial expressions) is lacking until interactive video is a real possibility.

Finding convenient opportunities to talk to students individually is difficult. (Going for coffee together after class is no longer an option.)

 
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