Faculty eLearning at West Valley College

- - where the power of technology and instructors' continually developing expertise join to deliver rigorous online, hybrid and web-enhance courses.

Instructors' expertise in the virtual classroom extends beyond the skills required in a traditional F2F environment. In order to teach effectively in the virtual classroom, an instructor has to have solid skills in organizing and managing time, in using online tools to create interactive assignments and activities, building engaged and motivated virtual communities, and in meeting the needs of students' cognitive learning processes and various learning styles without ever meeting them physically.

More than anywhere else, in the virtual classroom, instructor's role is to move away from teacher-centerness towards learner-directed learning. Their role is to facilitate, to coach, consult, and provide an intellectual framework for students to build knowledge about the course's content and its connection to their lives. And yet, instructors must also provide clear and visible guidance without the help of verbal and physical cues. Thus, teaching in the virtual classroom requires that instructors reconsider their personal perceptions and understand that their roles may be more complicated than in traditional F2F classrooms.

These experienced eLearning instructors discuss what they have learned.

  • Curtis Bonk, author of The World is Open: How Technology is Revolutionizing Education and Professor of Instructional Systems Technology at Indiana University's School of Education has taught online since 1993.

    • I can't go through the motions. I have to constantly update the content, and the great thing is that the material is alive since it remains out there. You can revisit, reflect and build on it. It forces me to rethink about how it'll be used and reused. It's a challenge, but it's also exciting. You're always renewing what you are doing and what the classroom is.

    • Students are more focused. Because the material is relevant to their lives, there's this interplay and they end up sharing stories. I get to know them better. You're helping them change careers, catch up or get ahead, and you see the immediate impact.

    • Students have to start strong. Unlike in traditional classes, the first week in online classes is the hardest. Read the syllabus. Figure out the technology. Test out passwords early. Invest up front and the rest runs itself.

    • You have to ask questions. I can't see looks of confusion and you can't see them from your classmates. The good thing is that help is there in many forms, but you have to seek it out.

    • The course material is only part of the experience. You're with people from all over the world. Pick your peers wisely because they can help you in future classes and in the work force. It's also the chance to learn about different cultures without having to travel. Take advantage of it.

  • Margaret Riel, Chair of the Masters of Arts in Learning Technologies, Pepperdine University.

    • Class is for activities, not lectures. In online learning, the shift is away from organizing a course around a set of topics to using student learning activities to frame the course. Rather than listening to a lecture, the goal is to have all students engaged in knowledge building. The activities are relevant to their experiences, so the ideas have real-world value. It's a much more interesting way to teach. As a teacher, I'm more of a questioner who moves the dialogue in interesting directions.

    • New role for teachers. You have to be confident in your knowledge base because you need to think on your feet. You need to pull in disparate contributions and understand concepts pretty deeply. The upside of this structure is that the professor is always learning and the students have more of a stake in the outcomes.

    • Wearable Technology Coming Soon. We are going to wear our technology very soon. Imagine wearing your keypad on your sleeve. We can start to use augmented reality in real settings. Students could experience different time periods and historical contexts and then work together to make sense of them. The technology will always be there, but the work we need to do is using these tools to help students understand these experiences.

  • Ray Schroeder, Director of Center for Online Learning, Research and Service, University of Illinois Springfield.

    • Technology is the classroom equalizer. Every student is heard and students can reply to a question in their own time and in their own way. Online, there's no front row of eager students or back row of reluctant participants.

    • No more one-stop course shopping. There will be more opportunities to gain credit or an entire degree through certificates and badges and more affordable access to universities and high-quality courses. Students will be able to enroll in one school and take classes at another university. They'll sample courses and piece together their own education at a price point that works for them.

  • Tom Vander Ark, author of Getting Smart: How Digital Learning Is Changing the World.

    • Learning will be customized. Students will learn in their own ways, maybe through simulations or having competitions over collaboration. We'll understand how to build persistence and performance and we'll learn what creates a hook, so it's just the right level.

    • Online learning looks like the future of work. Students need the ability to manage themselves and a team. It's the key as a freelancer and independent contractor. It's work 101. It's what managing work will be like.

  • Lawrence C. Ragan, Director for Faculty Development, Penn State World Campus.

    • Economic realities will always drive students online. Higher education funding is shifting, and students need to work. Traditional-age students are finding it increasingly difficult to attend school for four years and get a degree. Adult students are finding it difficult to show up for an 8 A.M. course if they also have a job and family obligations. The online model allows more students to more conveniently pursue their degrees and positions them in the workplace to advantage or stage their next career move. People have always pursued alternative paths to their education, but now it's easier and there are more choices.

    (These quotes are from the May 2012 issue of Delta Sky Magazine at deltaskymag.com.)

last published: 8/25/16