When running a race, it is easy to think of it in three parts. First, there is the start, where you build slowly all the while being excited about the journey you are on. Then, there is the finish, where your goal is in sight and you race to the end of your journey. The bulk of the time of your race is spent in the middle distance, where you are trying to put one foot in front of the other and keep your eyes on the prize.
If you think about it, teaching an online course can be broken up into the same three categories. The start builds slowly as the students and instructor develop the routines they will follow as they move through the course. The finish is completed in a mad frenzy as students race to deliver classwork and submit end-of-course assessments. The majority of the course is handled in the middle distance, where students work to meet weekly objectives and make their way through the course.
For a runner, the middle distance can be the toughest part of the race. For an online instructor, the middle distance of a course can be just as challenging. However there are some strategies/practices you can put into place to make this part of the online course easier to handle.
Keep the Pace
In order to stay on track for a strong finish it is important to pace yourself when running any race. Going too slow can dramatically affect your finishing time and going too fast can burn you out so that you don’t finish strong or for that matter, finish at all.
Pacing yourself as you teach an online course is just as important. Going too slow for your students can disengage them from the course and from meeting learning objectives. Conversely, blowing through course materials is also detrimental for your students’ comprehension and retention. Establishing a pace that keeps all parties engaged and involved while not leaving folks behind is a great best practice when teaching an online course.
As you move through the long stretch of any race it is easy to lose focus, lose track of what your goal is and just disengage from what you are trying to do. Staying checked in while you run ensures that you know where you are, what you are doing and where you need to be to complete the race successfully.
Staying engaged is possibly the most important thing you can do as an online instructor. Though it may seem monotonous at times, checking in and interacting with your course can mean the difference between student success and failure. If you know how your students are doing (because you are engaged), then you know what course corrections to make, what affirmations to give, and how best to direct your students as they move through the course.
Be on the Lookout for Obstacles
As you move through any run, it is important to keep an eye on the road in front of you for any obstacles that may trip you up. Getting tripped up can reduce your pace and disengage you from your plans for the run. Listening to fellow runners and race officials can help you in this regard. Having a lay of the land can also be a tremendous asset.
Obstacles can be just as problematic in an online course. Keep an ear to the ground with your students through discussion forums and e-mails to help them work around any roadblocks that may occur. Keep in touch with “race officials” aka the support desk or LMS administrators so that you and your students are aware of what is on the road in front of you. Knowing what course activities might cause issues for your students (third-party tools, multimedia or new software) can help you be sure your students are prepared for any issues that arise.
Whether you are at the middle distance of running a race or teaching an online course, keeping pace, staying engaged and being on the lookout for obstacles can help you be successful and finish strong!