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Discussion Post: Karen

     Sanchez-Serrano's article (2008) talked about distance learning and its effects on student's performance.  The article also talked about how a lot of teachers who teach foreign language courses online received very little, if any, training in conducting online classes. My question is this: Should an instructor of an online course be required to know about the technical aspects of the computer and the internet, as well the course content?  Is it ever enough just to know your content area?  Should there be a separate qualification only for those who can teach online, from those who can only teach within the classroom setting?


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 29th, 2009 10:23 pm (UTC)
karen's discussion post
In reference to technical difficulties Sanchez-Serrano mentions that teachers feel frustrated when learners ask for technical help, of course, because instructors are in a new area or environment and it would just add to their full load. I believe that once the instructors take control or get experience with distance learning and more familiar with common technological difficulties, teachers would like to provide learners with immediate help, I know I would.
Mar. 30th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
In light of our past two classes, both of which occurred at a distances and/or in some sort of virtual environment, what do you think?

I agree that language teachers are not computer specialists, and that it is important to socialize students into using the tech help resources available to them instead of relying upon the teacher to handle such things. However, I do think that a teacher who can teach effectively via distance learning will have developed different skills from those required of traditional classroom language teachers.
Apr. 2nd, 2009 02:08 pm (UTC)
week 11
I think that online instructors should be required to have training in technology and the internet. If they know about technology and the opportunities they have (ie, email, blog, instant messaging, audio calling-'skype', and virtual classroom-'second life'), and they know how to use this technology for their students, they have a better chance of their class succeeding. I think online instructors should have some classroom teaching experience as well. I think it would be beneficial to know how a classroom operates in a real life setting before moving it to the virtual world. Having the skills from the classroom would probably be supportive to the instructor for maintaining the classroom online. These topics are very interesting to me because I hope to be an online instructor in the future.
Apr. 2nd, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC)
Content knoweldge and technology content
Hi Karen

I think many teachers who have encountered this dilemma that they are expert of content they will teach, but they are not ready to use technology. Students would think the teach differently by judging this. However, I think the purpose of using technlogy in ths classroom either for teaching communication cause many effectiveness. In addiiton, I would say that teachers do not have to become a designer or expert of a certain technology; however, they should at least how to use. It is not a big problem to attend workshop or self-learning these skills. In adiition, the software and technolgoy is becoming more accessible and easy to operate. There won't be a huge problem that a person cannot undersatnd when he/she really want to learn it.
However, I would suggest that school or district who promote the use of teachnolgo in the language teaching and learning should provdie class to help these teachers.However, the priority is the content knoweldge.
Apr. 2nd, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
knowing the technology
I think a teacher teaching an on-line course most definitely needs to have knowledge of the technological aspects, as they will be the person the student will most likely go to first when confused. Also, teachers can't really understand how to design good activities using the technology if they themselves don't know how it works. Also, they need to understand their students' frustrations. I don't think this means they(we) have to have extensive knowledge, such as understanding code, or exactly how the technology works; just be comfortable ourselves with using it. I do think it is ideal when institutions have technology consultants available for the teachers and perhaps even available to the students.
Apr. 3rd, 2009 12:27 am (UTC)
I think they should be required to know about the technical aspects as well. This would secure a more well structured course and would help maintain a clear process for the students in the class. The content area is first, but how to present that to the students in an easily comprehensible manner. In a distance learning course there should be a clearly marked folder or area for the students to make present any questions or concerns regarding the technology and any technical difficulties that may be arising.

A separate qualification would be ideal because they are two distinct atmospheres and two different teaching strategies involved. The qualification could be a sort of simple, basic exam testing for computer comprehension and the proper managing on on-line tools that are necessary for a distance learning course.
Apr. 3rd, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC)
Re:Distance learning
Online courses have become very popular in higher education. While most universities and colleges have established training programs to prepare their faculty to teach online, school systems are just beginning to address this need. One of the first issues to be considered is the requirements for an effective online teacher. These include:
• be able to sit in front a machine for at least an hour or two every day
• enjoy one-on-one interaction (as opposed to lecturing or group presentations),
• be flexible in teaching approach and willing to experiment, and
• be prepared to do a lot of writing/typing.
Although these don’t sound like particularly demanding requirements, many otherwise excellent classroom teachers are unable to satisfy them. Some teachers have great difficulty establishing a routine of being online regularly and spending so much time interacting with individual students. Sometimes this is an access issue and sometimes it is a matter of being comfortable using technology. A passion for teaching and the subject matter involved is another requirement, but almost all teachers possess those qualities.

In addition to the personal qualities just mentioned, there some preconditions that online teachers must satisfy such as:
• have convenient (home) access to computer/internet,
• be very comfortable with the tools/system to be used to teach online, and
• have first hand experience as an online learner.
While many teachers believe that access to a computer at school will be adequate for their online teaching activities, in most cases, this doesn’t allow for enough time online and a computer at home is needed. In order to teach well online, a high degree of comfort with the tools and systems being used is required (e.g., discussion forums, chats, Powerpoint, Blackboard, etc.). And teachers should have first hand experience as online learners in order to understand how to be effective in an online environment. The latter two preconditions are most easily satisfied by providing training via an online course using the tools and systems they will be using when they teach.

While there is no commonly accepted standards (yet) for the skills and knowledge needed to teach online, here are some competencies that are closely aligned to the National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) established by International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE):
• be proficient using the basic elements of online courses: email, threaded discussions, real-time conferencing (chats),
• be able to describe the characteristics of successful distance learners,
• be able to describe techniques for effective online teaching,
• be able to evaluate the quality of online learning programs,
• be able to explain the ethical and legal issues associated with online education,
• be able to explain the accessibility issues associated with online education,
• be able to describe strategies for integrating online and classroom instruction.
These competencies are over and above the ability to determine the best way to use online teaching for a given subject and student and in addition to the personality characteristics mentioned earlier.

Apr. 4th, 2009 12:01 am (UTC)
I think that it depends on the instructor and the environment where the instructor is teaching. In countries such as the United States that are technologically advanced I believe that instructors should be both familiar with course content and technical aspects of the computer and Internet. However, in countries that have traditional classrooms rather than computer-based classes I believe that instructors should be more familiar with the content of the course rather than computer technology. As far as I am concerned not all countries have access to high speed Internet or computer technology. At the same time not everyone has the same proficiency level in computers. Although it is perfectly fine for a instructor to be able to have knowledge about both subjects (course content and computer technology) one should be able to take advantage of it based on the facilities that have been provided for both students and instructors in the educational environment.
Apr. 4th, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC)
Looking ahead in teaching.....
Not only the teacher has to have technical knowledge; he/she has to be able to relay the knowledge to his students, at least the basics; breaking away
from the traditional classroom, instructors have to also anticipate disadvantages that this new technology has: a feeling of isolation, staring at a screen (this can be a source of fatigue), sitting for prolonged periods of time and surroundings can become monotonous after a while (you are stuck in own area); all instructions and, perhaps, supplementary information, have to be made accesible and sometimes, OUTSIDE THE SCREEN. The imagery of the screen has to be taken in consideration; it can be graphic for younger students (a lighter approach could be of use in the future). It can work as a great tool; let see what future editions can bring to us. One more thing: teacher training courses might have to include this venue.
Apr. 5th, 2009 06:20 am (UTC)
I think that instructors conducting online classes should be educated about the technical aspects of computers and the internet. The whole purpose of incorporating technology is to facilitate teaching and learning; this will be so much easier if the instructor knows who to use technology to his/her advantage.
Apr. 5th, 2009 07:14 am (UTC)
I do believe that teachers need to become qualified in the mastery of technology as the requirements for introducing technology into classrooms are more and more obvious. It also depends on the settings(the countries where foreign languages are learned), on teachers' commitment to develop new strategies in teaching students and helping them assimilate the new material, on ELLs learning system.
Content instruction is fundamental, the teachers must be well prepared to enter a classroom where students need to learn. Technology proficiency and SL proficiency go hand in hand. But a teacher can not be replaced by a computer.
Thank you for considering my reply.
Apr. 6th, 2009 06:52 pm (UTC)
Regarding your first question, I believe that the Instructor in order to teach a class over the Internet, needs to have knowledge of computer's technical issues, as well as technical tools that can be used in the classroom. It is not enough to know only the course content, because if an Instructor is giving a class online, in order to have interaction with the students and make sure they are doing the assignments correctly, it is necessary to have technical and content knowledge.

Regarding your last question, I do not believe that Instructors should be separated according to their qualifications or technical skills. It is necessary to train teacher, as Sanchez-Serano mentions in his article. The problem apparently is, that the training is focused on the technological part and not on the methodology. His research concluded that when teachers where experienced on teaching online, the training was more satisfactory and less stressful.

I have never taught a lesson online, but I think that I will eventually and according to Sanchez-Serano "language teaching requires personal interaction" (Sanchez-Serano, 168). he also says, the use of audio device is a must in the class.

There are tools for the classroom and if the training was not as good as expected, one can search for tools available and use them in order to make the lesson appealing and interesting to the student and to the Instructor too, by using tools where speaking, hearing and pronunciation are practiced in order to evaluate the student's language skills.

Apr. 7th, 2009 03:10 pm (UTC)
Maria's Comment
I do think that online teachers should be familiar with both the content and the technology. However, I do not think they need to be experts in computer science or the internet. More weight should be placed on the knoweldge and expertise of the content area. One option could be for the teacher to have a technical assistat, but the option you mentioned seems more logical; there should be a separate qualification for teachers who can teach an online course and have been trained in CALL.
Apr. 9th, 2009 02:51 am (UTC)
Howdy Karen, Good question. I think the teacher should have some technology skills to teach the distant learning class. I also think the teachers should get know the technical support guys very well so that a bridge can be built to futher the learning process. A seperate training should be given but it should be teacher's choice to take or not. Also depends if the teacher want to teach a distant learning course. See ya'll in class. Abby,
Apr. 10th, 2009 03:07 am (UTC)
If the instructor is not knowledgeable about the technical aspects of the computer and the internet, it would be difficult to teach an online course. Yes, she can have the aid of a computer specialist, but unless she herself is aware of what is available or possible, her ability to design and manage a course is sorely limited. I don’t think an instructor who lacks knowledge in the area would even want to teach an online course. It would be too frustrating. Having said that, it is not that difficult to get proper training in a short time to at least get the basics and become knowledgeable about what is available out there if you are motivated. As far as the qualification requirements, if the online course is affiliated with an institution, I am sure that accommodations are made for quality control. However, if an individual is conducting a course, it would be impossible track or enforce quality control.
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