After taking a year off, I’m super excited to be heading back into the classroom at Algonquin College this summer. I’ll be teaching a project management course in the Mobile and Social Media Management program.
What really excites me is the way this course is being run. Students are given the option as to whether they attend class in person or online. If they attend in person, they will experience pretty much a regular in-class experience. If they choose to attend online, they can do so from a PC, tablet or smart phone. Let’s break down what this means in terms of technology and teaching style.
We use the BlackBoard learning management system for the course, including the virtual classroom tool BlackBoard collaborate. Both online students and in-class students have a chat room that they can use to interact with me and with each other. I am linked up to the online students via video (using this really cool swivel cam set up with a web cam that follows me wherever I wander in the classroom), and audio (a nice little SHURE wireless lapel mic).
I run two computers in the class, a 27′ iMac, where I present my lecture and other learning materials, and a MacBook Pro laptop where I display the chat window so I can follow the backchannel conversation.
All in all, it’s a pretty smooth little set up!
The addition of the online “from anywhere” component of the class definitely changes the teaching style, but in a really cool way. First, I have to pay attention not only to the materials I’m presenting, but to the students inside the classroom AND the students online. This is tricky, and while I do have some experience with this pedagogy, I know it will take a bit of getting used to.
Second, the inclusion of the backchannel discussion via chat creates a lot division within teaching circles. There is the camp that believes that allowing students to chat during class is a distraction and if they are chatting they aren’t listening. Then there’s the other camp that I fall into, that believes that the backchannel is an important part of the learning experience. Students who have the opportunity to share their own ideas, links, and resources tend to have an enriched learning experience. Their participation in the backchannel conversation allows them to deepen their understanding and strengthen relationships with their classmates. It’s a good thing!
I’m super excited to be part of this innovative and interesting program, and I can’t wait to dig into the content with the students. I will keep you updated on my progress through the course as the summer goes on, and I hope to have some great discussions about the challenges and triumphs of working in the 21st century classroom.