Valentine’s Day is all around us. It has permeated the shiny candy wrappers in the WSU IDT team’s sugar stash; it’s been in my local Target from the moment they packed away all of the leftover Christmas merchandise that went unpurchased. And it’s definitely been in the air lately.
So in the spirit of Saint Valentine himself, let’s take the time to look at some of the aspects of online teaching that we love the most!
For me, the seamless nature of online instruction has always had the largest appeal. It can sometimes feel, in the face-to-face classroom, as though learning is only allowed to happen in the strict hours in which the class meets. Conversely, the digital classroom removes many of those restrictions completely. The conversation does not end just because time has run out.
As an online instructor, I don’t have to feel quite so tied to the lecture time; the result of which is that I frequently catch myself at the end of the day remembering some piece of information, or some quirk in the schedule, that I forgot to mention when I had the chance. Anyone who ever served tables might recognize this as the “I never brought them their ranch dressing” panic that can wake you out of a dead sleep.
The beauty of the online classroom is that it’s mutable and persistent. I can build my lectures deliberately and take the time to work through them for any flaws that might pop up. I can work from a script and put together a video lecture or I can provide a text lecture that I can update and adapt as need be. I can then draw my student’s attention to any changes and expect that they can process it on their own schedule. I find this to often be a more effective approach to teaching than the “learn it now or risk never learning it at all” restriction that can sometimes hamper the traditional classroom.
I also works better for many students as well. As I mentioned in a previous post, a lot of students prefer online education because it allows them to work at a pace that is better suited to their needs. A returning adult student with a full-time job and children may struggle with a conventional schedule and find the online atmosphere more appealing. As an instructor, this relationship works both ways. It’s often hard to devote special attention to a student in the physical classroom when there are many other students who also depend on the instructor to make the most of their valuable time. Without the anchor of the physical classroom, the learning experience can become seamless–for both instructor and student–instead of a concentrated blip that only occurs one or twice a week.
Unfettered by time restraints, students also have more constant and instantaneous access to me. Ideally, this affords them an unbroken educational experience, one that simultaneously functions as part of a larger learning community, but is also somewhat singular to their needs.
Finally, in the service of getting to my real point, I want to end with a piece of Valentine’s Day trivia. Did you know that studies show that teachers generally receive the most Valentine’s Day cards? More than significant others and family members, teachers seem to rake in the most Valentine’s Day swag. Unfortunately, this may not be the case for those of us teaching online only. It’s notoriously difficult to send a miniature Butterfinger through email, but that just means that we have another reason to promote advances in online educational technology.