Select an item by clicking its checkbox
Teaching Online: A Guide to Theory, Research, and Practice
Date Reviewed: November 30, -0001
Some higher education faculty might still be ambivalent about the long term impact on educational culture by the technological takeover, especially that this shift has taken place in a relatively short period of time. Few though would doubt the fact that we are in the midst of an innovative, technology driven, instructional change. Teaching Online’s main goal is to help us navigate this change. Based on ample research, the book argues that the change has reached a tipping point and is expanding. This is hardly surprising news. Taking some courses online during their program has become a common expectation of the current generation of students at seminaries and graduate schools of theology, not to mention the large increase in distance learning programs and enrollment.
In addition to offering a comprehensive guide to the theory and practice of online teaching, Teaching Online also includes substantial chapters on developments in the theories and philosophy of education. This, in addition to situating teaching online within a long trajectory of change to instructional culture are among the key contributions of the book. Faculty views on learning change when they teach online, argues the chapter on “Views of Learning.” Higher education systems are facing new and significant challenges. “For hundreds of years, educators labored under the assumption that learning happened by way of an individual’s consumption of information and ideas.” Many philosophers of education, long before the time of online learning, starting with Paulo Freire in the 1960s, have challenged this view. However, the recent and widespread experience in online learning, which has now become mainstream, has clearly moved education beyond the traditional static concept. The difference is that this time the move to learner-centered educational systems is caused by technology. Online learning is offering the possibility of constructing ecosystems “in which each person is spreading his or her understanding among the pieces of information available in that ecosystem.” Students are becoming active agents in what one contributor to the book calls a “rhizomatic” learning process that has no fixed beginning or end, and is rather an ongoing experimentation and transformation (65-67). This is a great metaphor for theological education! Equally challenged by the spread of online learning are not only traditional philosophy and pedagogies, but also academic institutions themselves that might be losing control of the learning process (257). Teaching Online helps teachers tackle these changes and challenges. Furthermore, the chapters of Teaching Online offer valuable practical help in several key areas such as course structure and planning, the teacher’s persona in the online course, communication, student engagement and community of learning, and much more.
One minor annoyance in the book is the format of the chapters. Most chapters include five or six page-long testimonies of professors sharing their experience on the topic of the chapter. While these are somewhat interesting and add information and liveliness to the book, because of the way they are inserted, they can be distracting and interrupt the flow of the chapter. One feels lost at times in trying to follow the flow of the chapter; perhaps the book is trying to implement the rhizomatic approach mentioned above!
I was attracted to this book mainly because I am preparing to teach a totally online course for the first time, in the next academic year. I am glad I read it, and I strongly recommend it.
Integrating Pedagogy and Technology: Improving Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
Date Reviewed: January 18, 2016
If your school is in the process of transitioning to online learning, Integrating Pedagogy and Technology may be the only book you need – it certainly should be one of the first you read. Bernauer and Tomei’s work is brimming with very useful information for schools in transition. The authors have devised what they call an “Integrated Readiness Matrix” (IRM) to assist institutions both in discerning how ready their faculty may be for this change and in moving them toward greater technological and pedagogical proficiency. “The goal of the IRM and this textbook is simple: move higher education faculty incrementally from lower left quadrants to more advanced upper right quadrants” (80).
Considering how best to integrate technology into instruction “requires all faculty to be conversant with the theories of learning, the taxonomies and domains of learning, a new methodology for preparing and developing college faculty for a career of classroom teaching” (vii). The book includes a chapter on educational psychology, exploring the unique features of five pedagogies: behaviorism, cognitivism, humanism, constructivism, and connectivism. It builds to address taxonomies of learning, pedagogical skills and competencies, and technological skills and competencies. The lists of competencies and learning objectives for faculty development in chapters eight and nine are worth going over with faculty even by themselves.
The authors, from Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, model educational theory, using advance organizers at the beginning of each chapter, for example. Chapters may end with review sections, indices of concepts addressed in particularly complex chapters, suggested readings, and so forth. The preface introduces preconditions for using the Integrated Readiness Matrix, which is considered “sufficiently valid and reliable to serve as a basis for faculty self-assessment and professional faculty development,” to determine where each faculty member’s pedagogical and technological skills need bolstering (vii).
Another strength of this book is its applicability to various kinds of learners and institutional contexts. This material is valuable whether you are teaching undergraduates, graduate students, or other adult learners. Your field does not matter; this is not one of those texts where everything must be translated in order to be useful to theological or religious-studies faculty. Reflective teachers and institutional administrators concerned about how to develop faculty competencies will both find appropriate and important resources here.
Many institutions of higher learning are already in the process of transitioning to more online offerings. But this often happens in a haphazard, unorganized way, leaving certain faculty to carry the technological burden for the entire institution. Alternately, online expectations are introduced or imposed, but faculty are not empowered and trained to make the best use of technological tools, or pedagogical considerations do not enter the discussion. This book can be used to assist entire departments in training faculty, generating conversation about the pedagogical sophistication necessary to use technology well, and balancing technological and pedagogical considerations while transitioning to online learning.
Best Practices in Online Program Development: Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
Date Reviewed: October 15, 2015
This compact guide on building online programs has practical tips for faculty and administrators in higher education who are at various stages of online delivery. While mostly aimed at beginners, the book has ideas for institutions in the first, second, third, and fourth generations of distance learning, whether it is just one course, one department, a program or online delivery is fully integrated into the university’s strategic plan. The authors share from personal experience, surveys of faculty and students, as well as best practices from accrediting bodies to assure the reader will enter the online delivery method with eyes wide open. The book also has helpful suggestions for administrators and instructors who have experience with online education, but are trying to move their program to the next level. After a brief history of distance education and its place within higher education, the authors cite a study by the Babson Survey Research Group indicating that 6.7 million students in 2011 took an online class (a jump of 9.3 percent from 2010) and one-third of college students had taken at least one online class (compared to less than 10 percent in 2003). The authors state many reasons for offering online classes: overcoming space limitations, reaching students who were not accepted in the traditional admissions process, non-traditional students and students with disabilities—who may not otherwise come to campus because of mobility or accessibility issues. Students also choose online programs because of the flexibility to study around family, work and personal commitments. Whatever their reasons for studying online, the book emphasizes the different study skills to succeed. The authors suggest that admission offices should find a way to assess readiness to assure student success and in best practice offer an orientation, ongoing support and an ample IT staff.
The authors acknowledge that teaching will be different online than in the traditional classroom and administrators may find resistance from faculty. Therefore they recommend seeking faculty volunteers to teach online. According to a 2003 study, many faculty believe that teaching online requires more time than conventional teaching and a 2012 survey revealed that two-thirds of faculty believed that the educational outcomes were inferior to face-to-face teaching. Yet the authors estimate that between 25 and 33 percent of post-secondary faculty have taught at least one course online. Faculty also perceive advantages such as greater flexibility and reaching more and a different variety of students. Of course, faculty will have to make changes to relate to online students, for example Skype office hours, being socially present, while also managing student expectations for email correspondence. Once a class is prepared it is easier to teach again and can be taught by another instructor, however universities should have a clear policy of intellectual property rights. Other benefits of online teaching are greater attention to learning outcomes, methodology and assessment.
This book is not a “how to” book for instructors to develop an online class, nor is it an exhaustive manual for administrators, but it is an excellent overview and beginners guide for administrators to learn the challenges and best practices of high quality online programs.
Minds Online: Teaching Effectively with Technology
Date Reviewed: May 29, 2017
Do students learn as well online as they do in the face-to-face classroom? Miller argues not only that they can, if the instruction is well-designed, but also that online tools and resources are uniquely able to deliver instructional experiences that take advantage of the innate properties of human learning. “[W]hat technology allows us to do,” she claims, “is amplify and expand the repertoire of techniques that effective teachers use to elicit the attention, effort, and engagement that are the basis for learning” (xii).
Miller realizes that many faculty do not share her positive view of technology in instruction, however. She opens her book by targeting that resistance with well-reasoned and supported counterarguments: in chapter 1, she counters the fear that teaching with technology is a faddish, passing phenomenon with a recounting of its potential lasting value to both administrators and instructors; in chapter 2, she presents evidence for the effectiveness of online learning and against typical worries about its effects on students; and in chapter 3, she debunks several major myths about learners and computing that have made instructors skeptical or misdirected their efforts.
Having assuaged common concerns about instructional technology, Miller moves on in chapters 4 through 8 to discuss current psychological theory on the functioning of attention, memory, reasoning, the effect of multimedia elements on learning and motivation, paired in each case with practical strategies to help online instruction optimize these elements. Her evidence is compelling even as it is presented at an accessible level for an audience with little to no background in psychology. Finally, in chapter 9, she presents possibly the most valuable portion of the entire work: a demonstration of all of her principles in practice, in the form of a sample design process and syllabus annotated to show their use of cognitive best practices.
The value of Miller’s overall guidance is only slightly undermined by its fuzzy definition of learning for these purposes. Even as she describes how technology can impact learning, learning itself seems to be equated variously with retention, course completion, grades, and reasoning at different points in the text. In all fairness, each of these measures may well suffice at times for the instructor of a large introductory psychology class, which is the primary use case Miller discusses in this book; and to her credit, she does acknowledge the limitations of each of these as measures of student learning, and also explicitly notes the need for learning experiences that foster deep critical thought, and that engage students at the highest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Nonetheless, a more intentional definition of what is meant by learning would do a great deal to strengthen her argument that online resources can support it.
Despite this limitation, however, this book is a useful, readable guide to an area of instruction whose study is still in its early stages, unusually and gratefully practical even while firmly grounded in theory. It provides a valuable reframing of, and supplement to, the core principles of instructional design, and I expect it to inform my online and even face-to-face instructional practice for some time to come. I would recommend it for any academic library and for the personal collection of any instructor teaching, or considering teaching, in an online or blended environment.
ePedagogy in Online Learning: New Developments in Web Mediated Human Computer Interaction
Date Reviewed: March 6, 2015
This volume consists of fourteen chapters designed “to provide a useful handbook on adopting interactive Web 2.0 tools that promote effective human-computer interaction (HCI) in ePedagogical practice for education and training” (xv). Each essay presents data for the consideration of educators and administrators who are preparing to be or who are actively involved in virtual education. Primarily, the contributors explore using Web 2.0 tools such as Blackboard/Moodle, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, wikis, and blogs, but there is much more.
The chapters are divided into four sections. The first contains essays to help the reader think clearly about methodology as it relates to the continual evolution of online education. The second section consists of essays focusing on differences between synchronous (everyone must meet at the same time either in physical or virtual space) and asynchronous learning (done on one’s own time, such as watching recorded lectures or using message boards to communicate with other students). The third section focuses on how educators might measure student development in a virtual environment. The final section is the most technical with essays dedicated to the use of software and online systems.
This book does not offer quick-and-easy steps for one to follow toward successful ePedagogy. It is dense, heavily technical at points, and it requires readers to set aside time to read attentively. An educator of theological studies will have to creatively search for ways to transfer information to their own setting since none of the essays are directly related to this field.
The essays are social-scientific in nature. The testing conditions and criteria are unique to each particular essay, taking place in geopolitical regions as distinct as Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Taiwan, the United States, and Vietnam. The diversity is promising, offering encounters with a wide-array of scenarios wherein Web 2.0 tools function. On the other hand, the principles offered cannot be understood in a vacuum without reference to context.
This book may be best used as an occasional reference. In other words, it is not the type of practical book one would read through in a few sessions. The most useful part of each chapter for the casual reader may be the list of works referenced at the end of each study. These short bibliographies invite further exploration.
In summary, readers will find insightful academic essays that will assist them in their professional development as educators in a virtual context. The essays are based on data acquired through rigorous research. The uniqueness of each case study requires the reader to actively sift universals from particulars in order to determine what information may assist them in their own work, and the technical nature of the book will require non-experts to familiarize themselves with much of the vocabulary.