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The Top 3 Myths About Online Teaching
1. Online Teaching is impersonal
In 2010 I wrote:
“One of the most common responses I get when I tell people what I do (teaching & coaching online), is that they say they would miss the “real connection” to people around them. That this would not be for them, because they need a personal connection to people!”
What do you think? Can an online class be as personal as a class in a brick & mortar school?
When I started doing this I had the same question. “Isn’t it a bit impersonal to teach on air?“
Experience showed that the opposite is the case! Teaching online can sometimes be far more personal than its offline variety. Here’s why:
- Psychological barriers (“your guard”) to communication aren’t that active when learning from the comfort of your home or familiar environment. People don’t feel exposed or unnatural in the same way they would while sitting in a classroom. This in return allows both teacher and student to expose their personality more, if they should choose to do so.
- The paradox: Distance creates personal proximity.
And let’s be honest: How personal were our university lectures and lessons in school, really? Physical proximity of people may suggest a more personal atmosphere. But neither is it a guarantee nor does it mean that distance implies impersonal communication.
2. Online Teaching is complicated
When people think about online learning they sometimes imagine a person wired straight to a computer with endless cables and contraptions like some kind of Cyborg. The assumption is that people without or little IT-knowledge can’t learn online and especially not teach! It’s only for computer specialists and Uber-geeks.
But. Surprise, surprise: Technology has developed far enough in recent years that it can make itself invisible in 99% of the cases. The best technology is one that you don’t even notice. And we have those kind of tools for online teaching, ready to use. It depends of course on the online class or facilitator in question, what technology and tools he will use: Sometimes “virtual classrooms” are just too complicated and demand introductory explanations. But the less, the better. This is why I advocate what I call a “minimalist approach” to online teaching. Also known as K.I.S.S. = keep it as simple as possible.
In a world of wireless networks and mobile Internet devices online teaching is actually easier than never before! It’s not more complicated than making a phone call but infinitely more powerful, including not just audio but visual information, as well.
3. Online Teaching is distracting
This is linked to the 2nd myth. Because the technology is so “complicated”, a certain part of concentration is always locked up in dealing with it. Or so it seems. In addition to that, there is another misunderstanding: Our computing devices have multiple functions: We check emails, watch videos, book flights, chat and .. how is online teaching supposed to fit in there? It must be very distracting!!!
There is a certain truth in that. But it implies that students or teachers a) don’t have any self-control and b) can’t separate the different functions of their devices and use them simultaneously instead of according to the task at hand.
In other words: It is the responsibility of a teacher or student not to play Minesweeper or binge-check his emails during lessons. If someone chooses to distract himself, than he’s either not serious or the lesson is boring. I want to remind everyone, though, that this is not a phenomenon which is limited to online teaching per se:
Secretly watching youtube videos in an online class is simply the equivalent of playing tic-tac-toe under the bench.
Another interesting fact from my experience teaching online: Most of the people who contact me for online lessons have never taken an online class, before!
And, yet – Almost all of them have become completely excited, telling me how much they benefit from it and spreading the word to their friends.
This has led me to believe that a lot more people could benefit from online learning (either from a student’s or teacher’s perspective) if they only find a way to go past the assumptions and just check it out!
Which is of course the reason for writing this article and books like “How To Teach Online Without Selling Your Soul”.
Thank you for reading.