Engaging Online Learners

Over the last decade, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about online learning. I took my first online class in 2003, and I started teaching online classes in 2006. Over that time period, online learning has changed – and for the better. Intermetro-April2016 (504x700)
Like many educators who teach online, I’ve experienced the gamut of course management systems – from Blackboard, to Sharepoint (gasp!), to Moodle, and proprietary systems enhanced for specific learning strategies at particular campuses.

I’m often asked, “How do you enjoy teaching online?” My answer has changed. I used to think online teaching was a nice option if you had to learn from a distance. Today’s online education is one educational choice among many. And for some learners, it has become the choice of best fit. I’ve observed as a cohort of graduate students pushed each other to exceptional heights. Having never met in person, their first meeting as they all traveled to our campus for graduation was a unique and moving event. They were as close to one another as any student group I’ve seen, online or otherwise.

At Queens University of Charlotte, I served as Director of Online Faculty Services during a time of online transition and expansion. During my time in the temporary role, we launched fully online masters programs in nursing, communication, business, and education. We trained faculty on the ever-improving tools in online learning, and we developed a community of teachers with expertise in online teaching and learning. For all of us, teaching online informs our work in seated classrooms, and our work with students face-to-face makes us better online instructors.

This week, I was invited to present at the Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico in San Juan, PR, alongside two other nationally-known experts in educational literacies: Dr. Maria Vazquez of Florida International University and Dr. Donald Leu of the University of Connecticut. It was an honor to learn from both of them, and to present my own thinking about ways that we engage online learners.

We make our teaching better when we explore ways to improve our practice. And that learning crosses the boundaries of physical and digital, in person and online.

 If you’re interested in seeing the presentation, having a private lesson, or having me speak on your campus on this topic, drop me an email: mcarthurj @ queens.edu.

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