Making the change from the traditional classroom environment to online teaching involves quite a few adjustments. Rather than being provided with a timetable, you are able to set your own schedule. There is no commute, no parent/teacher conferences, no government set targets or policy changes and very few disciplinary issues. Time spent planning lessons and preparing resources is reduced greatly, as most of the content has already been developed. For that reason predictability rules over spontaneity. The classes are truly multicultural and most of my students are better travelled than I am. Almost all of them speak more languages than I do. It is an enlightening and humbling experience.
The Process of Having a Good Grasp of Online Teaching
Halfway through my first year of teaching online with Pamoja, I finally felt I had a good grasp of online teaching. I had settled into a routine of marking, feeding back to and supporting students. I was comfortable with the technology, using Skype and Elluminate to communicate with students, finding fixes to common problems, etc. Things were going well.
With Multiple Classes, the Grasping Process Started Over
Then I was given the opportunity to take on two November session classes (the other class takes exams in May). Going from one class to three was quite an adjustment. The number of students I was responsible for more than doubled. Along with this, the number of SBCs I was dealing with also increased. Once you and your class have settled in and become comfortable with the site and technology, it’s easy to forget how demanding the first few weeks are on everybody’s time. Suddenly, two new classes of students were having trouble accessing the textbooks or finding course content. The number of emails I dealt with on a daily basis rose exponentially. As did the number of support tickets I had to raise!
It took the first term for the November classes to settle in and for me to work out a schedule that worked for me. I start the day by checking my external email and dealing with any urgent matters. I then log into the site and check for pager messages. I deal with the urgent messages and make note of the others to deal with later. I then check the internal email and again, deal with urgent matters and leave less urgent messages “unread” to return to later. The process can take between 10 minutes and an hour, depending on the day. My next task is to check the discussion forums. I read through the posts, replying to a few, emailing some students to comment on their posts privately. After that I move on to dropbox assignments. Marking assignments is what takes up the bulk of my time. Going from one class to three, it often seems that the marking is never ending, especially in weeks where there are multiple dropbox assignments per class. After this I will have a quick check of the wikis and look at a few student blogs. I find I use my time much more effectively if I concentrate on one task at a time. If I flit around between emails, dropboxes and blogs, I’m much less efficient.
Pros and Cons of Teaching Multiple Online Classes
After almost a full semester of teaching three classes there are some definite pros and cons.
- I love being able to teach online (almost) full time. It suits me and my family to have the flexibility that comes with working from home and choosing my own hours.
- The students are great and I love interacting with them and seeing their knowledge of psychology develop along with their communication skills.
- I have students on 6 continents. Their different viewpoints on life and education are amazing and it has been quite a humbling experience for me. I learn as much from them as they do from me.
- It’s fun! I enjoy working with the technology and interacting with the students and SBCs and I have a great team of supportive colleagues.
- There are days when it feels like I will never, ever complete my “to do” list. There is always something else to be done with three classes and that can be frustrating and overwhelming.
- Sometimes, for example if I’m writing reports, one class or another will have to wait longer than I’d like for their feedback. My May session class, being better established, were neglected a little bit while the November session classes settled in.
- Teaching in two different exam sessions means that holidays don’t match. There are only 6 weeks of the year where there are no classes running. Think of me while you enjoy your long summer break!
- I still haven’t quite managed the art of taking a full day a week off without at least checking email, but I am trying.
Teaching multiple classes with Pamoja is different to teaching multiple classes in a face to face school. The demands on your time are very different. I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who had the flexibility to work from home full time and was prepared to spend a lot of time in front of the computer.
This post was written by Pamoja Education Psychology teacher Nicole Gosling