lessons in teaching I get to learn over and over

I have to admit that this year my Writing in the Digital Age online course has not gone as well as planned. I’m a little bit at a loss to explain it. In the spring, the course went very well. It was the first time I’d taught it online. I tweaked it a little but basically kept it the same. This semester the students just didn’t show up. I can’t explain why. With some exceptions, they never got into the groove of participating in an online course, and I can’t really point to anything I did differently from last semester or anything I could have done but didn’t do.

I can only post some many times and send so many e-mails reminding students they need to participate on a regular basis. I even met with them face to face to try and get them going. It worked for some, but only some.

Of course this is a lesson I’ve learned many times before, I guess. Back when I used to teach multiple sections of composition, it was ordinary for a syllabus to work great for one class and horribly for another, for an assignment to excite one class but not another, for a class plan to work really well in the morning and flop in the afternoon.

Given this, I sometimes wonder what I am supposed to be learning as a teacher. When I teach this course again next fall, will my students respond with energy as they did last semester or will they not show up like this semester? Of course in a class like Writing in the Digital Age, the content will change so it won’t be the same class anyway, and even if the class could keep the same content I don’t think I could do a good job teaching the same material three times in a row.

And let me say that I’m not trying to blame the students here. Obviously students have responsibility for their own education, but I also have responsibility for creating positive opportunities for them to learn. I recognize that those opportunities were not as productive this semester. So that’s on me, but I’m just not sure if there’s a specific cause at work here.

What I do know is that students really struggled with the responsibility of learning online. I didn’t provide them with a tremendous amount of structure. If anything I believe I was too ambitious in trying to move students into a mode of learning for which they were unprepared. The next time I teach the course I am going to do it as a hybrid. I guess we’ll see how that works.


One reply on “lessons in teaching I get to learn over and over”

Great question you ask–what am I supposed to be learning about teaching?
Are students not stepping up online because they see “learning” as essentially passive. Owned by the prof.? That stance won’t work in an online space.
In every course where I have placed more respon. on students to define their own learning I run into trouble. And, for me, that’s everything I teach.
If I were to assume the responsibility of telling students what they need to “learn,” and then testing them on it, I would have far less “trouble.” No question. KES


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