ELT article published by Prof. Jonathan Acuña at http://reflective-online-teaching.blogspot.

com/

Challenges to Face When Beginning to Plan One’s Online Instruction
A Self-Reflection What do you think the biggest challenges you face as you begin planning your online instruction? To fully answer this question that triggers lots of reflection on prior experiences and what one can confront in a real online teaching scenario, I must consider –in depth- two different considerations:

the readiness of the platform and curricular academic concerns.
As a language instructor, one of my main concerns when it comes to think of imaginable problems one can foresee is the readiness of the platform. From my personal experience I have witnessed peculiar complications with an LMS such as the lack of IT prompt responses, the inconsistencies of the course tool to be used in diverse browsers, and the optimal personal [psychological] features of students.

ELT article published by Prof. Jonathan Acuña at http://reflective-online-teaching.blogspot.com/

In the case of IT prompt responses, I have had several headaches with them. As part of one of my course, in which I tried to implement a hybrid learning modality [F2F lab instruction and independent online individual work], I asked the IT Department –via my school direction- to install three vital pieces of free software to work on the creation of language-teaching materials. I was told that such software was going to be ready to use no later than two weeks after my request, but it was available for lab use six weeks after what was promised. What do you do in an outrageous case like this? Conflict with the head of the IT Department? Another kind of trouble an instructor can confront in his/her course is the inconsistencies of the course tool to be used in diverse browsers. For some strange reason I cannot figure out well, users’ computers –supposedly with the same Windows packages- function differently. And when these user [our students] get to use the learning platform, it doesn’t work properly or some of its most relevant features do not work or become invisible for users. From my experience and my former students’ complaints, some sort of PC or laptop’s specifications should be provided to learners, so they can double check the their Windows Packages are fully compatible with the LMS. On a lighter note, the optimal personal [psychological] features of students are another issue to take into account when planning your online instruction. Distant education –so to say- is a kind of learning that is not suitable for all individuals. If a learner is about to embark him/herself into

ELT article published by Prof. Jonathan Acuña at http://reflective-online-teaching.blogspot.com/

taking an online / blended course, s/he needs to be aware of what is expected of him/her along the course in terms of academic responsibilities and effective use of his/her time. If the student does not have what it takes to study in this learning modality, it is wise that the Registrar’s Office or the Academic Counselors give them some convenient advice prior enrollment. Neither the instructor nor the rest of faculty members want to deal with frustrated learners who cannot cope with an online learning platform and the constant need to set priorities to independently work on it. As someone who has worked on curricular design for over ten years, I have some other academic concerns away from the readiness of the platform: The creation of learning tasks, course pacing and chronogram, and the marketing of the course. Creating learning tasks for a course is no easy task in the ELT domain, but in curricular design we have an advantage, which is the fact that we are producing things for students to acquire English and what is developed usually comes from a collegiate decision. But what happens when you inherit a course that has already been designed, planned, and that cannot be modified by the instructor? Looks like it is tough when one’s teaching philosophy goes beyond the boundaries of a learning platform, and decisions have to be made at a higher hierarchical level. If the instructor is consulted about course pacing and chronogram, can decisions at a higher hierarchical level affect the way time is going to be

ELT article published by Prof. Jonathan Acuña at http://reflective-online-teaching.blogspot.com/

managed by the instructor? Collegiate decisions ought to give room for instructors to voice their opinions and course burdens (concerns). In this way, administrators, designers, faculty, and instructors can make the learning experience for students much more rewarding than when a pacing and a chronogram is imposed in a course that has been assigned to a given teacher. Learning is meant to be rewarding for all students, and the marketing of the course is a need prior to the beginning of a college term. Before students get to sign for an online course, several things must be explained to them in regards to this way of studying, working on assignments, and develop their learning of the subject-matter. Their new educational panorama and the use of a learning platform as part of their course duties also needs to be presented to them to make them feel aware of the importance of prioritizing homework, reading assignments, reflections, forum participations, etc. Educational counselors need to have an active role in this part of student’s learning choices: What’s better from them, based on their psychological profile, an online course or a regular F2F class?

 To fully develop and comprehend this teaching issue, it’s advisable to research and expand these areas:

ELT article published by Prof. Jonathan Acuña at http://reflective-online-teaching.blogspot.com/

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How to cope with lack of response from the IT Department Given technical support to one’s online students What it takes to be an online learner How to design learning tasks for VLEs Matching pacing and chronograms in online learning

Professor Jonathan Acuña-Solano ELT Instructor & Trainer based in Costa Rica IATEFL Member and NCTE Affiliate Resource Teacher at CCCN Senior ELT Professor at Universidad Latina Freelance ELT Consultant four OUP in Central America For further comments or suggestions, reach me at: @jonacuso – Twitter jonacuso@gmail.com – Gmail Other blogs and sites I often write for my students at the university are: 1. Pronunciation 1 3. Pronunciation 2 2. Readding Skills 1 4. Computering Applications in Education

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