Community college students are more likely to come from underserved populations and are inclined to feelings of self-doubt in academic settings. When learning online, our students need to know they have an instructor who cares and is there to support them, and that they are part of a vibrant learning community. Effective online teachers mindfully cultivate their presence at the course level and one-on-one with students. These interactions foster a relationship based on trust, which is the foundation of a learning community. This principle underscores:
- Evaluating and incorporating digital tools to support the development of a learning community;
- Providing a supportive environment for all learners;
- Incorporating tools and activities to support student-to-student interaction and presence;
- Using multiple tools to support instructor-to-student interaction.
The above principles inform the practices noted below, as taught in courses provided by the @one online network of educators – @one principles for quality online teaching
Applying the Principles:
Web developers and programmers do not communicate via email; too many things get lost in translation. They communicate, as a team, using collaboration tools. The primary collaboration used in today’s workforce is Slack. I create a Slack group for each course. And, within the course, I create Slack Channels to help guide students. For example, there will be a general topic channel for Q&A and a Channel for each Module of the course. The screenshot below shows a summer course on Introduction to Web Programming. You’ll see Channels that denote course organization and a random channel for some fun comments.
I have Slack set up on my phone and computers (home and work). When students comment I’m typically a few minutes away. They know we’re all working together and I find that this changes their culture from emailing a teacher to collaborating on a team. Students engage with each other in this platform at a higher level than in Canvas.
In other courses I utilize additional professional tools to include Jira, Confluence, Azure, AWS, and more. I want students to experience working while learning, and I need students to see how complex technology has become and how much of a time commitment is needed. Tech is now always a team sport. Learning must include collaboration at every step.
I continue to email and talk with students in Canvas. Students have my cell number and can call during hours posted in class.
Where I was: I believe I have always been available and open to engaging with students; more so than most any faculty member I have worked with. This is reflected in my evaluations and, truthfully, getting to know students makes teaching more interesting.
Where I am: With @one classes, I changed up my ‘voice’ in communicating via collaboration tools and email. I am more ‘me’ than the organized instructor. In Slack, I communicate my thoughts while working or coding, as much as I do assignments.
Where I’m headed: When I taught full time and had several overload courses I focused on staying organized, clear, consistent, and available. I now work as an administrator and teach a couple of classes a semester, which leaves me with more time to creatively engage in classes. I enjoy getting to know student more and it seems to work well in the classroom. I am building new projects that are peer-reviewed and will serve students as portfolio pieces more than homework projects. In these projects, I’m engaged as a product team member and we’re working together.