North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN14 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Pages: 2011-2020
ISBN: 978-84-617-0557-3
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 6th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 7-9 July, 2014
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Today, online education is ubiquitous and expected in institutions of higher learning in the United States of America as well as in many parts of the world. The growth in the number of courses and programs offered online in higher education is partly driven by societal needs, learner demand for flexibility, plus the affordances provided by new technology developments to facilitate effective content delivery and communication. For many instructors, the leap into teaching online may be a massive feat, requiring a new way of thinking about teaching, learning, and content delivery that challenges them to mostly abandon a familiar teaching and learning paradigm for the unknown. This paper explores how to make the ‘big shift’ into the virtual classroom less daunting, and the strategies for making the transition meaningful and fulfilling for both the instructor and the learner.

The nature of online education dictates that one or more technologies be used to deliver instruction, for students to interact with each other, with the instructor, and with the content. While technology may appear to be the central focus in the transformation of a face-to-face course for online delivery, it should never dominate the direction of the process. Rather, the learner needs and their readiness to use the plethora of technologies that could be integrated in the course should be the primary concern. In addition, the learning goals and objectives should determine the best tools and methods of delivering the course.

By analyzing learner characteristics, instructors, especially those new to online teaching start with a realistic basis for decision-making in the transformation of a face-to-face course into an equally effective or even better online experience for the learners. The authors discuss strategies for finding a ‘happy medium’ in the transformation where course objectives are not compromised, learner characteristics are considered, and the level of instructor and learner efficacy in using select technologies drive the process. Armed with a solid roadmap for course design and delivery, instructors can minimize anxiety about teaching online, and can expect desirable rich learning experiences that engage and inspire. The ‘lessons learned’ are derived from the trenches in a Teacher Education curriculum where concerns about online education also extend to students’ disposition and preparedness to become effective classroom teachers where they will be expected to use technology. In this area of study as in many others, embracing online education gives the instructors the opportunity to critique their own application of technology in the classroom as they teach others to do the same in preparation for their future careers.
Distance education, higher education, online course development, teacher education.