Going the Distance

It’s summer, which means I have once again agreed to teach a couple of online classes for a college in my hometown. I have done this intermittently for the past 7 years (either online or face-to-face), and it’s always a great experience. I’ve tinkered with the class since the first time I taught it, and I think I am ready to roll for another semester. An article I read recently discussed multi-scaffolding for multimedia enhanced instruction, which prompted me to rethink some of the ways I’m using technology in the online class.

The authors propose a typology consisting of 4 types of scaffolds:

  • Situated video
  • Screencasts
  • Intelligent agents (virtual reality stuff)
  • Collaboration zone

Though I don’t think each of these types of scaffolding is essential for the classes I am teaching, it certainly provides a framework to which to compare my current practices. This is one reason I think it’s so easy to get into a teaching rut. It’s not that teachers don’t want to do innovative and engaging things with their students, but they simply don’t have a point of comparison to their current practices. Peggy Ertmer identifies a community of practice, among other things, as an essential agent in helping teachers transform their pedagogical beliefs toward the use of educational technology. Think about how hard it is to make changes in isolation, whether that change is a New Year’s resolution or a new of way of doing a job you’ve performed for many years. Without someone to compare yourself to and offer encouragement, most ideas don’t make it past the intention stage.

In my experience, online classes have been the ultimate silo. Most colleges use some sort of course management platform, and only the instructor and students have access to course materials. On one hand, this is nice because I don’t want random people disrupting the class. On the other hand, no other instructors ever see what I am doing, and vice versa. In this case,  I live almost 2,000 miles from the campus, but even the instructors who occupy the same physical space don’t share or discuss their teaching practices.

So, at the onset of my new summer term, I am thankful for having run across the work of Aaron Doering and his colleagues. While I may not immediately employ each of the multi-scaffolding tools in this course, I have re-thought how I might support both student learning and self-efficacy in the online environment through smarter uses of technology.