Useful links

Petrea Redmond's (2011) paper presents a case study of two teachers...

There are a number of potential pits that you could fall into when teaching an online course. Many of the pitfalls are associated with the assumptions we make based on our past experience of teaching offline. For example, one of the differences between teaching on and offline is that online everything (e.g. instructions and explanations) needs to be much more explicit and even then, as with offline teaching, we can't assume that students have read and understood the course material.

The bottom line: We cannot assume that what works offline will work online (although don't assume that it won't, either)!

In the following activity, click on the arrows to navigate around the image. What online teaching pitfalls do you think are being demonstrated by the example teachers?

You will now be presented with five example teachers and some of the practices they have undertaken in their online teaching. What online teaching pitfalls do you think are being demonstrated by the example teachers?

Foundations

In the following article, Qing Li and Melina Akins challenge the common...

Example 1 of 5:

Dr. Jeff Butler from the Political Science Department uploaded his course materials into the learning management system (LMS)/virtual learning environment (VLE) before the course started but he forgot to provide the students with any instructions or directions on how to use the materials to support the course assignments.


Example 2 of 5:

Dr. Honey Brown from the Philosophy Department had just published a new textbook for the course so she simply uploaded the digital chapters into the LMS/VLE without designing any interactive and collaborative learning activities for the students in the online course.


Example 3 of 5:

In his face-to-face teaching sessions, Dr. Peter Morton from the Chemistry Department loved to lecture to his students using PowerPoint slides. For his online course, he created audio recordings of all lectures and PowerPoint slides and uploaded them to the LMS/VLE. Peter also liked to 'talk at the students' in the online discussion forums so that they clearly understood that he was the course content expert.


Example 4 of 5:

Initially, Dr. Azmina Nehnshi from the Languages Department created weekly quizzes and a final exam for the course. They were all multiple choice summative assessments focused on recalling facts and content rather than on conceptual understanding of key course concepts.


Example 5 of 5:

Dr. Stefan Sikora from the Education Department designed a series of individual learning tasks for his online course. He did not make use of online discussion forums or group learning assignments. He was frustrated by the number of student emails with similar questions and concerns about the course.

These teachers have demonstrated what Elizabeth St. Germain has identified as the 'five most common pitfalls' of online teaching (2011):

  1. Upload your course materials and then call it a day.
  2. Let the LMS/VLE drive your thinking.
  3. Insist on being the 'sage on the stage'.
  4. Expect your students to consume knowledge rather than create it.
  5. Ignore the ways students learn from each other.
Source: Adapted from St Germain (2011), www.facultyfocus.com/articles/online-education/five-common-
pitfalls-of-online-course-design
. Used with permission.

How might you avoid or resolve each of these pitfalls?

In the following activity, consider the pitfall, think about what strategies you might use to avoid or resolve the problem, then click 'View feedback' to see our suggestions. Use the 'Next' button to move to the next pitfall.

You will now be presented again with the common pitfalls of online teaching. In each case, consider how you might avoid or resolve the pitfall, making a note of your strategies, then continue on to reflect on our suggestions.

Useful links

The following article provides an example of how to use a student...

PROGRAMME | Teaching Online
COURSE | Being a successful online teacher
UNIT | 2 : Building an effective learning community
PAGE TITLE | Common pitfalls of online teaching

Pitfall 1 of 5: Upload your course materials and then call it a day

How would you avoid or resolve this potential pitfall?

Our thoughts:

The focus of an online course is not simply on transferring information by posting your course materials online but on actively helping students co-construct their own knowledge. For example, you could require student groups to post weekly discussion summaries in the course LMS/VLE.


Pitfall 2 of 5: Let the LMS/VLE drive your thinking

How would you avoid or resolve this potential pitfall?

Our thoughts:

The success of an online course depends on the active presence of the teacher, and not just on students' use of the LMS/VLE. It may seem like an overwhelming task to be constantly checking in on discussions and answering questions. However, if you keep on top of the task it need only take 30–45 minutes per day.


Pitfall 3 of 5: Insist on being the 'sage on the stage'

How would you avoid or resolve this potential pitfall?

Our thoughts:

Be sure to 'listen' to your students in order to learn how you can help them with their academic challenges and issues. Listening in an online course can involve asking students to provide you with formative feedback on the course via online surveys, emails, and even telephone calls.


Pitfall 4 of 5: Expect your students to consume knowledge rather than create it

How would you avoid or resolve this potential pitfall?

Our thoughts:

Provide opportunities for students to discover and co-create their own knowledge rather than just prescribing set readings and activities. For example, you could require student groups to find relevant weekly readings for the course and then have them post the links either to the course LMS/VLE or to a social bookmarking application such as Diigo or Delicious.


Pitfall 5 of 5: Ignore the ways students learn from each other

How would you avoid or resolve this potential pitfall?

Our thoughts:

Provide scaffolded opportunities for students to learn from each other via group and peer learning activities. Students can learn effectively in this way by peer reviewing each other's article critiques. First, they can read and review an academic article related to the key course concepts and then post a critique to their blog. Second, one of their peers can review their article critique and then post their response to their peer's blog.

Do this icon

One of the best ways to avoid the pitfalls that the five teachers encountered with their online courses is to create a frequently asked questions (FAQ) discussion forum in your LMS/VLE. You can then require students to post their course-related questions to this forum rather than emailing you directly. It is still your responsibility to visit this FAQ forum on a regular basis – or 'subscribe' to the discussion so that you receive notification of new questions – but you will often find that other students have answered the question before you do. The use of a FAQ discussion forum helps students develop a collaborative problem solving approach to learning in an online course.


Useful links

Foundations

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