As I prepare for our class presentations, I can’t help but feel a bit anxious. It is not common for me to experience feelings of nervousness or anxiety before presenting to a class or speaking in public. Giving presentations has always been something with which I feel very comfortable. Having recently completed school (where in class presentations are all too common) and working in a college admissions office (which required me to give 45 minute presentations to prospective students almost daily), I’ve grown comfortable with speaking in front of others. So why am I so nervous for this presentation? As I tried to identify the exact cause of my nervousness, we discussed in class the importance of confidence in teaching an online course.
Do I lack confidence? I’m extremely comfortable with the subject matter. I’ve been working with the system I will be training on for about year. I helped to develop the training guide that is distributed to our associates, giving the exact step-by-steps instructions to navigate the system. I was a member of the team that implemented system improvements to make the system more user-friendly. I was able to rule out that my anxiety was causes by lack of knowledge surrounding content.
As Kiki had us play around in the system- draw on the whiteboard, add clip art….I realized my fear comes from a lack of experience with the training tool. Although I have conducted online training, I did not utilize any breakout rooms, whiteboards, drawings, clip art, etc. Basically, the tool was utilized to share screens with the participants to guide them through our system. The training was lecture style. We gave a short presentation on a particular topic followed by system training. For example, we trained our team managers on the importance of performance appraisals and then demonstrated how to use performance management tool. The participants were only asked to participate during a question and answer session.
My anxiety comes from my lack of experience with the technology. What would happen if the tools fail me? The screen share stops working, I can’t use the breakout rooms correctly, audio or video cuts outs? However, the use of this great technology can be extremely beneficial to improve our trainings. For example, it will be extremely helpful to understand the experience of each of the manager we were training. We can encourage feedback and participation from our trainees to better tailor the trainings to the needs of the group. We have the ability to create breakout rooms for smaller group discussions, use polls to quickly survey the call on experience, past usage, team size, etc.
The lesson here: get confident! My confidence will come from practice using the tool. Once you gain the confidence in the tool and subject matter, you can concentrate on engaging the class.
With the summer too quickly over and kids back at school, conversations at the water cooler have turned to after school sports and homework. I couldn’t help but laugh as two of my coworkers discussed the difficulties they experienced while helping their middle school aged children complete geometry homework. They both discussed how they had inevitably relied on old tricks they were taught and still remember to solve math problems they hadn’t done in years and years. With last class’ focus on Bloom’s Taxonomy, I was immediately brought back to college, when procrastination and my poor time management skills usually left me studying all night for the big exam or writing a paper the night before until the early hours of the morning. The first level of Bloom’s Taxonomy is knowledge or memorization. Next is comprehension. Bloom describes this as summarizing or restating in one’s own words (Wikipedia). All too often, a student will study enough to memorize the information and answer the questions on an exam. However, when asked to apply the knowledge, all nighters and flashcards that helped to memorize the material just aren’t enough. Although helping learners reach the level Bloom identifies as comprehension may be enough for certain training topics, many trainings focus on high level of retention. How do we help learners move beyond comprehension to application, analysis, synthesis and finally evaluation? For example, training on sales techniques is not successful unless the learner can apply what she has learned and evolve her learning into the ability to make decisions during sales meetings and presentations. This would require the learner to reach Evaluation, the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (Wikipedia).
Taking into account how one learns is so important in helping a person retain information, link that information to previous knowledge and apply that knowledge in their current situation. Howard Gardner put forth a model demonstrating multiple intelligences including:
- Verbal Linguistic
For example, my coworkers could easily recall a helpful mathematical formula from many years prior. One might assume that they might score highly on the logical/mathematical intelligence scale of Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Model. Personally, I scored 35 points on Musical Intelligence. I did not need to take this assessment to know that I would score highly in musical intelligence. It’s rare that I do not have music playing, a song my head or am singing myself. I vividly recall one teacher using songs to help us learn Spanish in middle school. I can still remember counting in Spanish to the tune of a popular song. The technique was helpful for me, however, she was one of the few teacher who ever incorporated music into our learning.
Each individual learns differently. It’s important for the instructor to remember that not all the students learn best in one specific way. Incorporating multimedia, activities, discussions, visual aids and requiring participation can help blend the different types of learning styles. This is specifically important in online learning, where the instructor does not have the ability read the body language and cues she might pick up on in a classroom setting. A student may be lost or frustrated because of the method of delivery . One way to avoid this is to ask for feedback and suggestions from the learners on how to improve your delivery.
Do you have a teacher who used a unique method of teaching? Is there a math problem, poem, song, phrase or anything you remember from years ago because of a unique teaching style?
The focus of our class discussion was the role of the instructor in different learning environments. We focused on 3 methods of learning: in class, online and asynchronous learning. Although the instructor must act as a facilitator of learning and a subject expert, the different environments may cause a challenge for the instructor to coach, personalize learning and assert authority in the class. In my opinion, in class learning presents the least challenge for the instructor. In class learning allows an instructor to be physically present with the learners. She has face time with her students. She can bring resources to the students and physically leads the class, usually sitting at the front of the room. This allows for authority to be asserted through methods such as setting norms. Discussing classroom expectations like raising one’s hand before speaking can help the instructor to set the tone of the class. An in class instructor can personalize learning through presentation methods, movies, PowerPoint presentations, class discussions, groups discussions, student lead learning etc. The physical presence of the instructor allows for relationships to form between her and the students, making way for a coaching relationship. Online learning can present challenges for an instructor. An instructor must take care to make the class interactive and personalize learning. As a student in an online forum, I find it very helpful to have PowerPoint presentations before class. This allows me to print and have them handy to take notes and allows me to focus more on the discussion. The use of online learning tools can allow an instructor to create virtual group discussions and encourage participation from students. Online instructors can also take the time to set norms for class and discuss expectations. The class is lead by the instructor and although she is not present, this still allows her to have physical control over the class including time limits on discussion etc. One role of the instructor that is particularly challenging in online learning is creating a coaching relationship. The online classroom and emails exchanged in between class lack the connection one can form with an instructor during classroom learning. Kiki is taking steps to increase her availability to us by being available ½ before and after each class. This will allow for questions, discussion and may increase the couching relationship for students in the class. Instructors must also take steps to ensure that students are utilizing the resources being provided to them. Using class time to go over links, texts and articles that the learners will find helpful can be beneficial. Asynchronous learning can be very challenging for the instructor because each student is learning at her own pace. In my opinion, this is the most difficult learning method for the instructor to form relationships, act as a resource, demonstrate authority and personalize the learning. Unlike a classroom or online class that meets at a specific time each week, each student is pacing herself to complete the learning. There is little contact between the instructor and students, which minimizes the coaching relationship. This can be seen as impersonal. The instructor has little way to assert authority but she can implement deadlines for each assignment. Personalizing learning can be done through the presentations givens to the students and assignments. Blogs such as this one can encourage communication between the students of the classroom without actually being together in a forum. The role of the instructor in all of the environments is a challenging one. However, with the rise of online learning, the instructor is faced with the challenge of being creative, utilizing different resources and thinking of new ways to engage the learner and personalize their learning experience.