Remote Learning: A New Journey

In the time of Covid-19, we’ve been thrust into The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth. We have to battle villainous foes, make courageous choices, and strike a blow against the evil that threatens the land. This is the best way I know to describe the feeling as we find ourselves in with little to no advanced warning—forced by circumstance to teach all courses online. 

As we sit alone in front of our screens, we wonder if we will ever have that feeling that comes from watching a student’s face light up when that “aha” moment happens. We miss the chatter. We miss seeing all our students at once. We miss hearing the laughter. We even miss the “slouches” in the back of the room. 

We feel a mix of anticipation, adrenaline—and some fear. But we know now that this new journey has started, the fear will take a back seat. We have no other option. 

Then we realize we are not alone. 

Behind that screen is an army of professionals. We have different titles and different roles—faculty, instructional designer, librarian, tech support, help desk, media specialist, coordinators and on it goes. Some work on the front line and some behind the scenes—trying to hold everything else together. 

We share a common purpose.

The job of an online teacher—is the job of a teacher. We are called to do this. We connect our students to the content, we connect them to one another, we enable them not only to learn content, but also to catch life experiences—we shape them in the way only teachers can. It’s that simple—and that complex.

It’ll help to figure out your first few moves. Maybe you’ll use a video conference, a digital whiteboard, a discussion board with replies, or even email. Great teachers of the past used chalkboard and chalk. It doesn’t really matter what you use to teach, so long as you understand at the very least you’re trying to connect with students and build a learning community.

As you move into remote teaching, some things won’t work the way you want them to work. Find what does.

Take time to discover the army of professionals there to help. If you start to feel a sense of frustration, take heart: that’s how you know you’re teaching. Also, you’re not alone—there’s a lot of frustration going around right now. That’s how you know that you haven’t lost the desire to teach—to learn—to connect. 

I don’t want to minimize the challenge. Thinking about tools or bells and whistles is less important than acknowledging that, once you start, wherever you start, you’ll build capacity just like you did in a face-to-face classroom. At first, the modality will be what you think about. But soon you’ll only think about the modality as you bump up against a limitation. Innovation is in your heart and with the help of your friends you will overcome.  

With determination we move forward, knowing our resolve will be tested. And that together we will rise to the occasion. We have to—for we are teachers. 

Author: Gary Tucker, Executive Director of eLearning

An early adopter in online education, Gary helped develop and deliver one of the first fully online Masters degrees in Educational Technology. Still an early adopter, he now depends on the expertise of his dynamic eLearning team. When off-the-clock, he reads and rides his bicycle.

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