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After teaching online for nearly a decade, the learning opportunities continue to pile on: from students, from colleagues and from life. Here’s a list of ten online learning lessons that I hold close right now during the pandemic of a lifetime.
- How you say it matters as much as what you say in class
- Trust your instincts
- Listen closely to hear students’ pain
- Respond now: attention spans are short while windows of opportunity close quickly
- Showing up is important, perfection is not
- Streamline coursework to focus on what’s important
- Learning objectives can’t be met if worry, illness and grief get in the way
- Be the glue that holds it all together, this won’t last forever
- Learn something new
- Stay connected to peers
The first lesson is particularly important. Teaching in a digital forum places greater emphasis on written skills and the tone and tenor of our messages. Live sessions are held in ad hoc environments and no longer fit within a normal activity routine for teacher or class. Students have fewer visual cues to judge our intent and might not interpret our words and feedback as intended. I’ve found that in times of great stress, my messages tend toward the overly emotive or end up terser than is my norm. My brain moves faster than my fingers do, and I often leave out words or skip through a progression of ideas, leaving behind the small steps.
My “go to” remedies to fix mistaken messaging and the wrong words to students are Price School resources. First, the premium subscription to Grammarly Pro is a terrific and fully automatic tool (available to students and faculty under license to the Price School courtesy of Vice Dean Juliet Musso and the Academic Affairs office). Second, when Grammarly Pro can’t help me, to compensate, I often seek out a teaching colleague to review class announcements and information notices. Like any “go to” editor, my friends will fix my grievous errors so the students can best understand my directions. Last, my students are the saving grace. I treasure the best feedback I ever received from a student who said, “that’s ok Dr Dora, we knew what you meant to say.”
Benzie & Harper, (2019) Developing student writing in higher education: digital third-party products in distributed learning environments, Teaching in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/13562517.2019.1590327
Delante, N. (2017). Perceived impact of online written feedback on students’ writing and learning: a reflection. Reflective Practice, 18(6), 772–804. https://doi.org/10.1080/14623943.2017.1351351
Guasch, Espasa & Martinez-Melo (2019) The art of questioning in online learning environments: the potentialities of feedback in writing, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 44:1, 111-123, DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2018.1479373
Dr. Dora Kingsley Vertenten is a practitioner of public policy through the American political system. Since joining USC’s faculty in 1996, she focuses on the Master of Public Administration program teaching Fundamentals of Public Policy analysis (554), the Capstone course (546) and leads both the Residency in Public Administration (506) and the Capstone Residency (507) at graduation.
She has taught an International Laboratory in Dublin, Ireland (613ab), Public Administration and Society (540), Intersectoral Leadership (500) and Political Management (656) including USC’s Semester in Washington Politics program and for many years in the Sacramento Capital Center program. In the MPA’s Capstone course, Vertenten has served as coordinator of the program in Sacramento, Los Angeles and online as well as recruiting international and domestic, public and non-profit agencies to work closely with more than 75 graduate student teams. Read More