Watch the hour-long discussion here!
The LeCroy Center hosted the inaugural Rockstar Faculty Panel Discussion, which brought instructors from around the district together to discuss the role faculty plays in engaging and keeping students focused on course completion, graduation and preparation for the workforce.
“We hope today’s program is just the first of a new series of programs exploring rockstar employees from across the Dallas County Community College District who teach and support our students, both in the classroom and online,” said Eastfield College’s Cindy Castañeda, who served as the panel’s moderator.
The panelists were Shazia Ali from Eastfield, Denise Griffin from El Centro College, Chaelle Norman from Richland College, Toni M. Schuster from North Lake College and Denise Shipley from Mountain View College.
“Online learning continues to grow, as evidenced by the fact that in the 2014-2015 academic year, about one-third of the district’s students enrolled in at least one online section,” Castañeda said. “And in our district, faculty and staff are doing everything we can to stay out in front of this trend with innovations in online teaching and learning.”
Among the early topics discussed was the challenges of teaching a course online. Ali, who teaches English, focused on the difficulty of being available to her students at all times.
"When you’re teaching a face-to-face class, you have students who are right in front of you, so you can engage them," she said. “Whereas when you’re teaching a distance learning online class, [your students] are somewhere else and all they can see is a computer screen. That’s their instructor."
“For example, if I get an email and if I do not respond within 24 hours, there’s a good chance that the student is going to drop the class. So it doesn’t matter if it’s a weekend or a holiday, I have to be there.”
More than seven and a half million students nationally take online courses, and in Griffin’s experience, a lot of that comes from flexibility and convenience.
“They can learn on the go and it’s not just at home,” she said. “I have my lectures for my pathophysiology class online. A lot of them use that time, when they commute, to listen to the lectures and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on that.”
Schuster thinks it’s the misconception of the difficulty of online courses.
“I think a lot of students take [online classes] because they think it’s going to be easier and, in my opinion, I think it’s much more challenging,” she said.
The conversation then turned to how each of the instructors engage with their students in an online setting.
“The key to it, to me, is for me to be visible so they know I’m a part of it,” Norman said. “And when they teach me something, I let them know. I let them know, ‘Thank you for that, I never thought about that and I’ll use that.’”
The panel ended with all the instructors giving advice to someone who has never taught an online course before, including getting a mentor.
“I have heard people say, ‘Well, there’s such an abundance of technology today, so it must be easy to put an online course together,’” Shipley said. “But more technology means more work, not less. I also agree that you need to have taught a face-to-face class before you try to put together an online class.”