Effective Online Teaching Requires Skill – Take the Gloves off

It’s Time to Take the Gloves off.

Ironically, while Common Core is causing a shift in pedagogy in traditional face-to-face classrooms, online classrooms are proliferating with the previously used pedagogy. The Common Core movement has veteran teachers rethinking and changing the way they teach. It is not easy, but clearly important to ensure our students can collaborate, communicate, and solve problems. It is important to have a holistic approach to curriculum and use a different methodology than the one we experienced as students.

The effectiveness of Online K-12 education is being questioned in newspaper articles, formal reports and standardized test scores, yet online schooling is being mandated by states around the country. Just this week Tulsa News reported “...skyrocketing virtual school enrollment…“, The Spokesman Review reported “Idaho K-12 virtual school students lag” and a new report reviewing Virtual schools  National Education Policy Center in Denver, Colorado, reported monetary advantages and weak student performance, raising more questions than providing answers. My interaction with colleagues around the country confirms that much of the online k-12 instruction taking place today is more about monitoring for completion than teaching. Online schools claim alignment to iNACOL Standards yet the standards listing collaboration and problem solving appear  mostly absent in the implementation of online instruction. My opinion is that some saw an opportunity, well-intentioned, to more efficiently instruct without the financial restraints of Brick and Mortar and essentially converted what we know are “ineffective teaching practices” for the 21st Century, to an online platform. Simply putting curriculum online for students to access does not constitute teaching or learning.

I recently participated in 9 hours of “training” to teach in a virtual setting. The entire 9 hours and only professional development requirement for this online organization, focused entirely on the use of the management system and appropriate communication with students and parents. Absent was any discussion on online teaching methodology, synchronous session management, problem/project-based learning and authentic assessment. The “formula” for online instruction is typically an independent study formula. The student gets materials to read, worksheets to complete, papers to write, and tests to take, independently. Communication and collaboration among and between students is rare (with the exception of obligatory postings on a forum) and communication with the instructor is typically one of the instructor reminding, and encouraging the student to complete the assigned, independent work. My question is…Where is the teaching?

In my research I have learned that the typical requirements for online K-12 instructors include certification and teaching experience, often the teachers are masters of their content. These teachers are able to give back meaningful feedback but have no experience and no support in effective online instructional methodology. The online pedagogy is missing and since teachers tend to teach how they were taught, the old model of read and regurgitate then take a test is employed. The model does work for some students, but we need to prepare all students for learning and working in an online environment. In all fairness these new online instructors do not know what they do not know and managing the LMS is, for some, a big learning curve in and of itself. I’m sure they want to do be effective and when taught methods to manage a class in an online virtual environment in building and producing content, using games to teach concepts, and social networking applications for authentic collaboration and communication, the lackluster student performance in online learning will make a dramatic shift. In addition to incorporating virtual environments, games, and social networking into instruction online educators will need to constantly keep up with changes. What worked yesterday does not work today and what may work today will not work tomorrow. It’s time to take the gloves off and address the future. Your thoughts?
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