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Gallery of Online Teaching

This video collection is a series vignettes and personal stories by successful online instructors at VCU. In these short videos, they focus on how we might actually see evidence of learning in the online environment and share their experience, thoughts and advice to those who are contemplating teaching online.

This portion of the Gallery of Online Teaching provides faculty vignettes about their own online teaching experience and addresses the key question: What does learning look like in the online environment?

Dr. Jonathan Becker, Assistant Professor, School of Education, Department of Educational Leadership.
Looking through the lens of his Politics of Education and other online courses, Dr. Becker discusses examples of student learning and alternate ways of thinking about learning online. He touches on the use of various platforms as well as the concepts of Connectivism and Rhizomatic Learning, and he shares his advice to others, based on his online experience.

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Dr. Kia Bentley, VCU School of Social Work
Professor and Director of the Ph.D. Program in the School of Social Work

Dr. Bentley discusses the roles of online instructor as facilitator and curator. She points out the importance of community and the necessity for students to reach out, consume content and engage in rich discussion. She talks about how the depth of development in her online courses exceeds the face-to-face courses. She states that the greatest evidence of student learning is expressed by students as they articulate how the learning expands their understanding content and values, and relates to their real world experiences. In addition, students give back to the course and each other, through “search, find and share exercises”, as well as the creation of videos and case studies, which demonstrate how they have applied their learning.

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Rosalind Bradley, Assistant Professor, Department of Patient Counseling, VCU School of Allied Health
Ms. Bradley discusses teaching in the Clinical Pastoral Education Program her course provided students with the opportunity to examine how pastoral counseling reflects art and how art reflects pastoral counseling. She discusses the benefits of flexibility to accommodate the needs of various learners and how evidence of learning is demonstrated through the development of community and active student participation. She points out how student contributions, such as the creation of digital stories and other work can enhance learning.

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Dr. Marcus Messner, Asst. Professor in the School of Mass Communication
Dr. Messner teaches in the Journalism sequence of courses, which address Global Communication, Multicultural Journalism and the use of Social Media. His interest in online teaching was born of necessity to provide better student access to courses in the 1 year fast-track Master's Program. He wanted to provide flexibility for students to engage at a more convenient time. In addition, he wrestled with the lack of student engagement in his large lecture classes of 200 students and shares how he conceptualized online learning as a means to address this concern. He provides examples of what he sees as evidence of student learning in the online environment, steps he has taken to build community through groups, emphasizes the importance of presence and tips on making student engagement meaningful. He concludes with advice regarding course structure and means of effective communication.

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Dr. Mary Secret, VCU School of Social Work
Dr. Secret brings 10 years of online teaching experience to the conversation and discusses her 2 sections of a course in the MSW program. Her teaching style is based on Constructivist Learning Theory and the development of community is central to her teaching an online learning. She points out differences and similarities in courses, where the students know each other in advance vs. forming relationships in an online community. She states that much of the evidence of learning comes from the voice of students, as they testify to powerful learning experiences. Other evidence of learning comes through student contributions in various media, though discussion and engagement with their fellow students, and by observing students as they develop confidence with online engagement.

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Dr. Britt Watwood, VCU Center for Teaching Excellence
Dr. Watwood reflects on over 17 years of online teaching and how opportunities to see evidence of student learning have evolved. His primary courses are Business Leadership and Educational Technology for School Leaders and they provide many opportunities for students to develop a sense of community, collaborate with their colleagues, learn to employ various technologies for engagement with others, create evidence of their own learning and to empower them for life-long learning.

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This portion of the Gallery of Online Teaching provides faculty vignettes about their own online teaching experience and addresses the key question: How has teaching online impacted your practice?

Dr. Frank Baskind, VCU Ombudsperson, Dean Emeritus and Professor, VCU School of Social Work
Dr. Baskind is currently teaching a graduate level online course called Spirituality and Social Work Practice. He discusses the importance of his own rigorous online learning experience and his transition to teaching online. He addresses his initial concerns about how to maintain "presence" in the online environment and provide timely support and mentoring for students. Teaching online has made him more intentional and thoughtful on the front end in order to be able to respond to the needs of students. He shares his concern that the design and delivery of the course address the professional competencies demanded by the professions. He articulates that in the asynchronous environment, work is distributed differently and that the schedules of students make it important to dedicate specific times for regular engagement. His perceived rewards are that students are more invested in learning.

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Dr. Deirdre Condit, Associate Professor, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs
Dr. Condit teaches courses in both political theory and American institutional work in women in global politics and women in the law. She has been teaching Gender Politics and Popular Culture online for 16 years and remarks about the past and current growth of "distance education". She discusses her attempt to make learning opportunities more available and address the needs of certain populations of students, the difference in instructor identity and interaction, and the creation of a learning community in the online environment. Communication in the online course environment has made her think carefully about what is shared. One of the rewards of online teaching is the "opportunity to peer into the writing and critical thinking of students in a somewhat more intimate way" than in face-to-face classes. She states that online teaching can "be seductive", and tempt one to put more quizzes and content online for use in the face-to-face class. But, but importantly, she encourages us to think critically about what and why of the changes we contemplate for our practice.

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Dr. Brendan Dwyer, Center for Sports Leadership, VCU School of Education
Dr. Brendan Dwyer discusses his early experience as an online student and his transition to teaching online. He states "the amount of effort you put into teaching online reflects how much you will get out of it". Overcoming his initial fear of teaching online has made him realize that it can be a very rewarding experience. Brendan says that "teaching online has helped me improve the way I prepare and the way I teach". It changes your perspective of the classroom and the ways you can leverage technologies to create strong relationships in the online environment. It requires you to be more prepared. Student feedback is important and you need to say on top of it. It takes more time. Dr. Dwyer teaches both online and face-to-face courses and he feels that each format helps inform the other. He works hard to have students appreciate their environment and achieve common learning objectives. His online students are generally working professionals and he gets to learn from their front line experience and share this with his face-to-face class. He feels that anyone interested in pursuing teaching online should not be afraid. "People learn differently than they did 50 years ago and they learn in different environments". His comments lead to the question: why not take advantage of the best of these learning opportunities?

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Jill Reid, Department of Biology, VCU
Jill Reid teaches Principles of Nutrition and Human biology. She has come from the position of being skeptical about online teaching and learning, to no longer being willing to teach in the large face-to-face lecture hall. Online teaching has allowed her to be creative, get away from exams and create engaging and highly interactive courses in which all the information does not all have to flow from her. She has moved from lectures and tests to many small assignments, discussion, self-assessment quizzes and other strategies. Her large classes are divided into groups of 20 and students feel more connected to a learning group and not just one of many in a class of 200 students. This has resulted in greatly improved student work and learning outcomes. Jill says, "You have to be open to new ideas and be willing to try new things, be willing to participate in faculty development and take time. Her students often complain that it's a lot of work, but they throw in the caveat, "but I've learned so much".

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Last modified: June 20, 2013
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