I found out in December, 2017 that I would be teaching an online section of ENG 203 Creative Writing: Poetry I. (Initially, I was slated to teach a seated section of this course). Having never taught an online course, or even taken a university-level course online, I was somewhat nervous.
Then I found ENG 704 (Seminar: Teaching Writing Online) in the course list for Spring 2017. I was excited to learn more about teaching writing online, mostly in an effort to ease my personal anxiety about it. So much so, that I read all three of the assigned course books. I was, and still am, hoping to learn techniques and best practices for teaching writing online and I hope to utilize lessons from this course in my online section of ENG 203.
One of the hardest things for me, in the beginning of creating my own course site, was conceptualizing how an online course should be structured. I knew the expectations for the seated section of ENG 203 and I was prepared to teach a seated course. However, transferring the course objectives and classroom activities into an online medium was something I struggled with. After about ten days of brainstorming, constructing course materials, and imaging a range of written texts, I was able to put together what I felt like was a functional and informative site. However, the management of the site, daily activities (such as assignments, workshops, and the like), as well as the creation and upkeep of my instructor presence, was a process completely in the inchoate for me.
I was able to transfer some of the best practices mentioned by Warnock in his book Teaching Writing Online and this was a big help for me. Particularly, one area that Warnock mentioned was the importance of establishing an online presence early, such as responding to all student’s initial posts on the discussion board. I had everyone in my class post their own introductions, much the same as we’ve done in ENG 704, and I went through and responded to my student’s introductory posts. I felt like this was a helpful tip and one I maybe would have overlooked otherwise. Another best practice reiterated by Warnock was the importance of “not being the bottleneck” and I’ve taken some measure to ensure that the grading of posts and student exercises is not something I’ll do in a manner that impedes the natural flow of student work and creativity.
One thing stressed in the Online Writing Conference textbook was the value of synchronous communication and feedback, such as that inherent in IM clients. I see the value in IM and it is something I’ve also seen shine in other instances, so I was glad to be encouraged to incorporate IM into my course’s BlackBoard site. In this vein, I plan on incorporating a sort of “virtual office hours” into my ENG 203 course, where students can IM me with questions and elicit discussion.
I’m hoping to learn more about the pedagogy of teaching writing online, particularly in regards to best practices for work shopping student material and the creation and maintenance of an online instructor presence. I’m also hoping to learn more about the implementation of multi-media content into my own online course, as well as how to leverage new technologies. Lastly, I would like to learn more about the process of leveraging social media in an online course. Hopefully, through the readings and exercises in ENG 704, I can transform from someone with apprehension about teaching online into an instructor confident in his abilities in this growing medium. I’m looking forward to it!
As an aside, I’m also looking forward to meeting those of you I don’t already know, and working with everyone in the discussion board and on our own personal blogs. There is a lot to cover, certainly, but I know we will all grow from this.