Rebecca A. Stone-Danahy, Forsyth Country Day School, Fine Arts Director and Visual Arts Educator
Greetings! I have been an adjunct online instructor with the North Carolina Virtual Public Schools since 2008 and have developed and taught an online course through my school, Forsyth Country Day School in Lewsville, NC. This year, for the first time, I used the online platform to teach through “blended learning.” Students had the virtual, online course throughout at their fingertips, while also being taught face-to-face each day. I found that the online platform was great for allowing students to get caught up if they fell behind and also allowed students to work ahead if they knew they would be traveling or would miss school because of an athletic event, etc. Because the course had previously been created prior to the school year starting, I was able to facilitate how and when the information would be released to students and give homework to students in the online platform. For the most part, this experience went very well. The students who were tech savvy adapted easily to reading and participating in online modalities such as discussion boards, blogs, and wikis. Some students who were not as tech savvy sought extra help after school and or went to the school computer lab during a study hall to get the help he/she needed to complete course content. And, just like in the face-to-face classroom – some students did not participate at all. I think I was most surprised at the small number of students that did not keep a personal blog (required for the course) and when homework was assigned, the student did not log in at all. With the information so accessible, I assumed that all learners would participate. However, just like in the normal face-to-face environment, I found that some students needed extra time to participate and extra attention to complete course work. The secret that I found to success was to communicate with the students and parents when course work was not completed and to send written directions as well as review it one-on-one with the student during the school day.
Having the course content developed prior to the semester starting, allows me to use my planning periods in more productive ways for the course. For example, rather than running to the copy machine to make last minute handouts, I might instead revise some of the course content presented, correct typos, add in information that is relevant to the week, make a screen cast to further explain a concept or fine tune an extra-credit assignment that allows an advanced student the opportunity to tackle more course work. On the other hand, I also found that my grading process and time required increased. For example, if a discussion board is posted in the course, it is necessary to grade the discussion board each day, moderate student comments, and add my own comments to ensure that students are mastering the content presented. This is very different from an in class discussion where I can easily track who is participating and what is being said. Grading in the blended or online learning environment needs to done daily and it is easy to fall behind!
Overall, it was a positive experience and I plan to continue teaching in the online platform as an online course and through blended learning. There is much to be learned as technology continues to change how I teach!
Screenshot of Visual Art Foundations course, Forsyth Country Day School, Lewisville, NC