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How to teach a college internet course?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by mikemba, Feb 8, 2011.

  1. mikemba

    mikemba Active Member

    I have the opportunity to teach an internet course this summer but have absolutely no idea what is involved. I have a lot of burning questions, and any help you can give will be greatly appreciated.

    Are these things done by webcam? If not, how do you "teach" the course?

    Do colleges usually give the professors software to use at home or do you usually go to campus? (I actually wouldn't mind going to campus).

    How do you know students aren't cheating? Or do you generally give all essay assignments and exams?

    Does whatever program you use to do all this involve a lot of general know-how? This would be a big concern to me, because although I am generally competent with computers, there is a lot I don't know.

    I probably have more questions. But anyone who can help with what I asked so far -- that would be great.
  2. overedge

    overedge Janny uber

    The answers to a lot of what you're asking depend on the college and the course.

    For some courses, the instructor makes a video of the lecture and posts it. In others, the students are assigned readings for each "class" (and maybe some video as well), and the class and the teacher "meet" at the same time online to discuss the readings and/or video. And in others, the students can post and respond to comments on the "class" readings whenever is convenient for them, and the instructor facilitates the discussion by adding their own comments and questions.

    For software - some colleges have their own software set up on their server, and everyone in the class just logs into a certain part of the college's website, and all the class activities are done there. For other colleges, there's a central website run through the school, but you have to have the same software on your home computer to be able to "join" the class. So you can be "in" the class at home or at campus. If the course you're considering has to have software on your own computer to run, make sure the college pays for it (seriously, some colleges try to make the instructor pay for it themselves).

    How do you know students aren't cheating? As in having someone else post and/or write essays for them? The main tipoff I've experienced is when the postings are really awful and the papers are flawless :) If the student is determined to have someone else do the entire course for them, there's not really a lot you can do about it, except hope that the student gets caught out in their future career when they claim to know something from a course they never actually took. If it's a case of straightforward plagiarism or essay-buying, the same things work as they do for essays on paper (e.g. running phrases/sentences through Google or an online research database).

    Computer know-how: I am extremely INcompetent with computers, but the schools I've done online courses for have had really good support staff, that have verbally walked me through things step by step. Before taking on the course I would be sure to ask what sort of computer assistance they have (and depending on the nature of the course and where the students/instructors are, 24/7 support would be good). The programs I've used are BlackBoard and Lotus Notes, and I see Moodle being used more frequently now. If you can find out what program this course uses, you might be able to check it out beforehand and see how well it might work for you.
  3. Cherub721

    Cherub721 YEAH!

    I've never taught one but took a few in college. It will depend on the school or department, and I imagine your school would provide you with more details.

    None of the courses I ever took were on webcam. Most of the teachers posted assignments on a weekly basis or more often and then interacted with students in writing in a number of ways. One had a message board open to all students in which everyone was required to participate, and then there was a weekly chatroom where the teacher would "present" information and then we could ask questions in real time. In another class, there was no interaction between students, and we had essay and short answer assignments to email the professor each week, and he would email back a grade and detailed comments. In all classes, we used an assigned textbook just as in any other college course.

    Software - I can't speak from the professor side, but on the student side, it was always web-based. You would go to the course web-site, login, and then have access to the assignments, postings, chatroom, etc. I imagine the professor did the same thing, but had administrator access.

    All online exams were open book. Lots of essays, but some were short answers or even multiple choice. One course had no online exams, just the weekly written assignments, and we were required to come to campus for a written mid-term and final.

    Hope that helps... there is a lot of leeway, so you should be able to find a way to do it that suits you, but it will depend on the guidelines you get from the school.
  4. professordeb

    professordeb Well-Known Member

    A suggestion from someone who has taught a lot of computer courses but none that are completely online.
    Try and find out who has taught this course before. See if there's anything you can gleam from them. Speak with the co-ordinator of the program that provides this course. They often have some insight as to how it is often taught and what you should do to prep for it. Tapping the brains of others who have done this course before is something that many of us who teach, have used as a very valuable tool. They often have good insights as to what works and what doesn't, the pitfall to avoid, how to determine if a student is cheating etc. etc. etc.
    You may have to dig a bit to find such a person, but it can be done. You may need some patience and diligence as you perform your search. If you can make a couple trips to the campus before you teach, you might find some answers a bit more quickly. I found that having a face-to-face with someone who has taught the course always made it much easier to get ready for teaching.
    Also, if this is your first time teaching, I would hope that the school provides you with some training to answer things like - how do I get paid, how often do I submit my hours and to whom.

    At the college for which I taught for over 20 years, there was a group of specific people who were responsible for online learning courses. They tend to be a great resouce.

    So, make a phone call or two if you can. Arrange to meet some people and pick their brains as well as asking if they can direct you to others who can answer the questions they can't. I have usually found that the other "professors" tell me how to run the class but then I need to speak with the "tech" people on how to get it all up and running.

    Hope that helps a bit - at least from the teaching perspective.

    Good luck this summer and remember to have FUN!!!
  5. Prancer

    Prancer Strong and stable Staff Member

    ITA. While most web courses follow a pretty standard pattern, there are a lot of deviations. My husband, for example, took a class that used the iTunes site for part of their work.

    It depends a lot on the type of course you teach. For example, I teach writing and all my classes require papers. For my classes, all student must submit ideas for papers and post drafts for comments before submitting the final papers. Any topic changes during that process must be discussed with me in advance.

    Some schools require all students to take exams at a testing site in person to prevent cheating, and they do ID checks. Not all schools do this; it's very easy to cheat at some schools and there are some at which someone other than the student can easily do an entire course without anyone being the wiser.

    Pretty much everything you (the OP, not overedge :)) want to know is going to be specific to your institution. I will tell you that I personally find teaching online to be more work than teaching a traditional classroom course, and that when I teach online, I might as well be attached to my computer, as I am on it all the time. I have also taken several online classes myself, which is something I consider important. I have been the student whose submission didn't go through and whose internet went out at a critical time. I was even accused to cheating once and almost subjected to discplinary proceedings because of a technical issue that had nothing to do with my work. It makes a real difference, IMO, when you've been on the other side of the fence.
  6. mikemba

    mikemba Active Member

    Thanks, everyone for such great info! You have been a big help.