The Messiness of Online Teaching

As you know, I am gearing up to teach my first fully online course this fall (and a second in the spring). Until now, I have taught only hybrid classes. I’m very excited and, if you’ve been following, I’ve been exploring lots of ideas for what I might do (see here, here, and here).  It finally reached the point where I had played around enough, and it was time to start making some decisions about what to do for the fall course.

This is when I started running into problems. Not major problems. Nothing that can’t be fixed. But I want to highlight some of the issues today that I ran into as a first timer and share my thinking about them with you.

Welcome to the LMS

While not a fan of the LMS in general, I decided that for my first time out the gate (and in a new position), I should give it a shot. The problem is that I had to fill out a form to get access to the LMS, and I am waiting for that form to process. By the time I learned I had to fill out a form and then wait for someone to approve it I had easily squashed two weeks (and I’m still not approved yet). This means I cannot start learning the LMS or setting anything up. And not only is this frustrating, bit it is causing me to panic.

I’m not a last minute person. At all. I do my best work over time when I can play with ideas and retool things. At the moment I have plenty of time to devote to getting the class in shape, but no space to design it in. I can’t just sit here anymore and wait on people to sign off on things. Given the circumstances, I decided to go back to my default (wikispaces) because I know how to design courses using that format. I decided that when I do get access to the LMS I might use some of the features but most likely now I will be linking out of it. Oh well. I was never bound to the LMS anyways.

Let’s Fancy the Joint Up (Or Not)

I have been reading about lots of great things that I could do in my online courses. Eventually it was time to see if I could put some of those ideas in action. And now I’m back to being seriously overwhelmed. Here I became overwhelmed thinking about:

  • design: I have to think through what an appropriate amount of work/interaction looks like in an online space; while I have some experience with this because of my hybrid courses, I found that I still had issues to think through going fully online
  • too much new: teaching online is new; I’m willing to give an LMS at least a partial glance which is new; the ideas I found intriguing were new and a lot of work in and of themselves. That’s a lot of new to balance out!

Here is where I decided to cut myself some slack. I just left a position I had been in for 12 years and moved across the country. That in and of itself is a lot of work. I’m teaching fully online for the first time. That is not necessarily a lot of work, but it requires a shift in thinking and planning. Once I processed this I made the following decision which was:

What you are doing is more than enough in and of itself. You do not have to do it all right now. Get the basics under control. Teach in ways that are relatively familiar. That is enough, and there is nothing wrong with it.

I can be particularly hard on myself, but since the move I have learned to tell myself, “You are enough. This is enough. Let it be enough.”

So for now, I will keep reading and exploring. I will continue thinking through the possibilities online teaching has to offer and how we might enact them. But I will also allow myself to simply be and experience this first year of teaching online. And from there, I will forge ahead.

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