It’s Summer, but it’s not Summer Vacation, at least not yet.

blurry typewriterThis is my first post of the summer. A few friends have asked me how being on break has been. The truth is, I haven’t actually been on break, which is why I’ve been fairly out of touch. For the last month or so, as I was finishing up my spring semester duties I was also working on designing and creating the online course I start teaching June 11th. Last summer was my first foray into online teaching, when I designed and taught a literature survey. This summer, it’s a composition course: Exposition and Research. It’s the writing course that all Asbury students take, both our traditional undergrads and folks in our adult professional studies program (unless they’ve already taken it elsewhere).

I felt as if I learned a lot from my experience last summer, so it has been good to put that experience into this course. The one big take-away from both courses so far is the huge amount of thought and work that go into preparing an online course. I’ve been reading lots of articles about online education over the last year–some positive, quite a few negative–and, while I’m not ready to give up face-to-face interaction with students, I think face-to-face teaching can take a page from the pedagogical awareness required in online teaching. You have to think about why you’re doing everything you do, and you have to think about all the possible ways students could get off-track in an assignment, and you have to think about all the different kinds of learning activities you can leverage to create community, motivate independent learning, and inspire critical thinking.

One skill I’ve gotten fairly good at is creating instructional videos. OK, maybe “good” is an overstatement, but I am at least now able to create and edit a passable screencast. I turned my kitchen table into my “studio,” using desk lamps for three-point lighting. Powdering my bald head was minimally helpful in reducing glare: I was reminded of the scene in Tootsie when the cameraman was instructed to pull back on Dustin Hoffman’s soap opera character. “How far?” he asked. “How do you feel about Cleveland?” was the reply.

Editing was a nightmare at first, but I slowly got the hang of it. I can now look at the soundtrack and immediately spot all my “uhs.” Not as easy to edit out the occasional barking dog or kid who should be asleep but isn’t.

This was the final product, which also gives you a peek at the course I created:

It won’t win an Oscar for best short subject documentary, but it gets the job done. I’ll share more about how the course goes over the summer.

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