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Grant: Teaching Online

Wednesday: March 25, 2015

I was contacted by our Center for Innovation and Scholarship in Teaching department at one of the universities I teach at, letting me know that they had a grant with my name on it if I would be interested in taking a course about how to teach online. Duh – of course!

I am not sure how I was nominated for the grant, or if everyone gets one as they take the course, but I am very excited and it couldn’t come at a better time with my current financial woes.

The class starts Monday, but I have already poked around. See, although I am teaching online already, this program interests me very much – beyond the financial carrot:

  • While I have taken an online course as a student, that was many, many years ago. I’ve forgotten what worked and didn’t for me as a student, and technology has changed dramatically since then. What do online courses even look like today? This course will teach me how to design an online class.
  • (What does teaching itself look like? This course might show me how not to feel like such a fraud! Oh, I still giggle at the cosmic joke that life has played on me!)
  • My university is transitioning to a new Learning Management System, and I haven’t had the motivation to look into it yet. I had decided that I would do it when it was essentially forced on me – but approaching it early and with training is a far better idea! This course will teach me how to use the new LMS.

By the way – that new LMS, Canvas? Golden in comparison. Gosh, why didn’t I look into it sooner?!

From what I gather, my classes are already set up pretty much exactly how they need to be, which is great news for me. Of course there are things to tweak and new ideas that I will learn, but the bulk of the course design is solid. One of my fears when I initially accepted the grant contract was that it would be very taxing to start over from scratch – especially now that I have it running fairly smoothly. Thankfully, though, the most work will simply be taking those ideas to the new LMS. Phew!

I am also looking forward to taking this class with other people. I only know one other enrolled, and just barely. He is another physical anthropologist, in a Lectureship position so he gets to participate a little more than I do in the department. Though I seem to have more teaching experience than him (at least when he was first hired), I am interested to see his ideas about teaching anthropology, and seeing the other “students”‘ comments on what works or doesn’t.

I have plenty of questions that I hope get addressed. How do you direct students to participate *meaningfully* in discussions? How do you objectively grade discussions? How do you handle the time-sap that internet communication brings? How to you keep the class fun and personable when they only know you through a screen? How do you keep from getting bored? And so on.

At the end of the course, to accomplish my grant requirements, I will be peer reviewed for the fall semester. Once I fully pass, I will be certified to teach others how to teach anthropology online. This is cool, but at my small university, unlikely to mean much (I was given the disclaimer as such). Clearly, minimum enrollment would just never be satisfied!

Unrelated side note: I am trying to find small ways to still be “active” in the science community so I nominated myself to be Vice Chair for the Anthropology Section for the Indiana Academy of Science. I could not attend due to car woes, but the current Chair let me know that someone present claimed the position, but no one took on Chair itself. Did I want to be the next Chair? I hemmed and hawed and decided to decline instead – how rude is it to take a title if I cannot commit to the responsibilities? I may wish I had taken the role, but there are always future votes when I can actually be present.

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