I would have to say that I enjoy being an online student. My biggest challenge is actually limiting the amount of time I spend on the course. I could spend many, many hours reading and responding to other students posts and though I do read them, I have to limit the amount of time I spend responding. In general, I think I take quite a bit of time to do the course readings, complete the activities and assignments. I’m not sure if I tend to take more time than other students or not though I think that I might. In order to deal with this challenge, I have to make a point of turning my computer off and focusing on some of the other things I have going on in my life. Having said that, I also recognize that it is a real challenge to work when my kids are home. Even when they know I’m in the office with the door closed, it is truly amazing how many times they have a question to ask or need my help with something. And they are NOISY!!! Especially my 8 year old who decided yesterday to host a surprise birthday party today for one of her friends. It was sheer chaos surrounding me. I might have to go to work on the weekends to get some peace and quiet!
The most important learning that has occurred for me is related to establishing a sense of community and having an instructor be “present”. Up until now, I’ve just been figuring out this online learning as I go but I had noticed something related to this. Usually when I teach pharmacology online, I also teach other courses f2f so the students get to know me, they realize that I am approachable and that I really want them to do well. On one occasion, I taught a class solely online. It was one of my first classes so I was quite new to this. This particular group of students seemed to think that I was a scary teacher – quite a shock to me. Students are often intimidated by my course because they have to get such a high grade to pass it, but never in my career have students been intimidated by ME. F2f I make a point of smiling a lot and getting to know my students as individuals and trying to set them at ease and reduce their stress as much as possible. I intuitively realized that I needed to make an effort to establish the same type of environment online and I have been working towards that (see class 3 discussion forum for how I’ve been doing this). It wasn’t until I read the course materials that I realized that this was an actual “thing” that other people have experienced, talked about and studied. This is quite reaffirming actually.