For anyone interested in teaching online, WizIQ is currently offering an excellent MOOC called Teachers Teaching Online (TTO). For me, the timing of this course is perfect: I’m trying to transition from full-time to part-time classroom teaching and to expand into teaching online and writing.
You can attend the classes live and contribute to the chat or watch the recordings of the sessions later. After each session, there’s an opportunity to contribute to a discussion as well as take a quiz. If you watch four sessions, pass four quizzes, and participate in the discussions, you’ll receive a certificate for the MOOC. I recently read a post which explained that despite the fact that MOOCs (such as TTO) don’t offer credit, they are often seen by employers as evidence of a teacher’s initiative to provide her own PD. Since apparently 90% of MOOC attendees don’t complete the course, having a certificate or badge showing that you did also says that you have the ability to follow through.
Where to Start
If you are new to online teaching and plan to watch the TTO recordings, I recommend viewing them in a different order than they appear in the course schedule. It’s a good idea to first watch those sessions aimed at total beginners. It might be better to get a grasp on what online teaching is (is it 1-1, groups, synchronous, asynchronous, blended, or some combination of these?) and be clear about what you will be teaching (will you be a generalist or a specialist?) before you delve into the sometimes overwhelming, but fascinating, world of edtech. Marisa Constantinides’ session “Essentials for Teachers New to Online Teaching” (June 29) is a good place to start because it addresses some of the basic literacies new online teachers need to understand.
Another session that provided a lot of clarity to me was Jack Askew’s session “Being a Successful Online Teacher: Find your Niche, Build your Brand, and Constantly Grow” (June 20). Jack stressed the importance of a teacher finding a niche. That point generated a lot of discussion as many of us teachers enjoy teaching a range of courses, levels and ages. Isn’t that part of what keeps this job interesting? But after some thought, I agree with Jack. For example, if you were a learner who wanted to improve from 5.5 to 7.0 in IELTS writing, would you hire the generalist teacher who teaches everything to everyone, or would you choose the teacher who specializes in IELTS writing? Teaching everything to everyone also means that lesson planning could be extremely time-consuming. Having a niche means you can develop expertise, build a recognizable brand, and you can tailor your marketing. In his second session “Getting Students: Short and Long-term Strategies to get Paying Clients/Customers (June 27), Jack added, “The sharper your niche, the sharper your message.” If you can tailor your course to meet the needs and goals of your specific target audience, your message will more likely resonate with potential paying students. Such advice is valuable for us teachers who have never been in the position of having to market ourselves and our work.
The Next Step
After deciding what my niche will be, I’ll need to figure out how to find learners and how to keep them. TTO addresses these areas: there are so many experienced online teachers who share valuable information on finding students (Heike Philp and Jack Askew); and how to make online learning engaging and effective (Shelly Terrell, Nik Peachy, Graham Stanley, Jason Levine, and others). I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to learn so much from these experts before I start my own online venture.
However, one concern I have with online teaching is the frequency with which technical problems occur in TTO. If these problems happen to people who are very experienced with teaching online, I worry about the frequency they’ll occur in my classes. Are technical glitches to be expected? I think the scary answer is yes. Several presenters have advised new teachers to learn as much as possible about the platforms they’ll be using: test them out, practise, take training courses, etc. so that you can fix your own technical problems as well as your learners’ problems. There might also be tech support available. If all else fails, make sure you have a Plan B, such as changing to another platform (e.g. Skype) or be able to use your materials in a different way.
All in all, TTO covers a great range of topics relevant to new as well as more experienced online teachers. I’m looking forward to the remaining sessions.
Until next time!