I completed the Beginner’s Questionnaire, but I have to say that I feel the result is not very accurate and does not truly reflect what I actually do in the classroom. This is likely because of the nature of my discipline, English as a Second Language, the language level of students I currently teach, and the fact that we do not give grades in noncredit courses.
With that said, my score was 14 – toward the presentation/recordings-lecture end of the spectrum; however, in my F2F classes the presentation (lecture) is really kept to a minimum, especially at the level of ESL I teach, where students are fine-tuning their grammar, speaking, reading, while working on developing higher-level, academic vocabulary and writing skills. In my F2F classes, I have been working to create a classroom environment with some elements of a flipped classroom. For example, I do currently present new material and topics in class via a combination of videos, conversation, presentation/lecture, and some reading, but a lot of written work and some reading is assigned for homework. This really has helped to maximize in-class time for students to practice with each other in pairs and small groups and for me to conduct informal formative assessments to see where they are. Some of my students have few opportunities (or rather, don’t have the time to take advantage of opportunities) to practice their English outside of class. Oftentimes the majority of in-class time, students are the ones who are doing the talking — at least that’s my goal. When I feel there is too much “teacher-talk,” I try to remember to change my lecture next time to break it up with more “think-pair-share” activities and questions to students.
I foresee that as I take a portion of my classes online once they are offered as hybrids, I will be creating a lot of new materials as well as transforming presentations into narrated PPTs or videos so that the online work students will do will be what is known as the presentation of new content (lecture) and then all of F2F class time will be for questions, student-student, and teacher-student interactions — more of a true flipped classroom. The challenge will be to recreate the feeling of community online as well as to maintain the same types of and level of student-student interactions, but I do feel I already have and have used some tools that will be helpful (e.g., Wimba voice tools, discussion boards, etc.).
As for the technical aspects of taking my courses online as hybrids, I feel confident with my own skills. I have used Blackboard for more than 10 years to provide students with supplementary practice materials, to post grades, and for students to take assessments. I have also used blogs and wikis to provide and online presence for my F2F classes, and have had students use a variety of Web tools for class projects. My only worry is that all of my students’ technical skills will not be at the level to be able to do online work independently, so I envision a lot of hand-holding at first. Again, since our courses in noncredit ESL are free (WIA grant) and students do not receive formal grades, there needs to be a lot of intrinsic motivation on their part, and the instructor needs to create lessons that are very engaging and relevant to students’ needs and goals (of which there are many in any given language class). I feel confident with my abilities to make course materials interesting and how to instill enthusiasm for learning in the classroom, but my other challenge will be to be able to come across similarly online. I think the way to do that will be with a video introduction, check-ins with the class periodically via video, and audio recordings. A lot of my students simply aren’t readers for a variety of reasons, so pure text will likely repel them.
All the years I have used Blackboard, I have posted weekly online activities in an announcement emailed to students, but I plan in the future to use buttons with weekly assignments posted. Organizing my topic or textbook chapter will not work in my situation because I combine so many different materials and change my content frequently so that I don’t get bored. Plus there is a lot of scaffolding and some repetition in ESL, so students will need to be able to look back at previous weeks’ content.
To finish up this post, I think going online is going to be a huge amount of work in the beginning with creating of online materials, and I have no doubt that the workload will diminish only slightly after that, but I am up to the challenge because learning and trying new things is what (beside my students — a recent class pictured in this post) keeps me interested in my career and helps me avoid total and complete burnout.