Online Learning Through the Eyes of Faculty

Higher education is quickly shifting toward online learning more and more each semester. Both faculty and students have to prepare for this shift as online courses become increasingly popular, particularly during current circumstances. 

We recently interviewed Lisa Wiltsie, Adjunct Professor at USI since 2000 and Ivy Tech, to provide insight for the USI community regarding online learning and how to be open to this adjustment as both a faculty member and student. 

Lisa primarily instructs for USI's AASCB-accredited Romain College of Business in the marketing department, but also teaches in USI's COSMA-accredited Sport Management program and for the College of Liberal Arts. Additionally, she teaches for IvyOnline Arts, Sciences, and Education, which is Ivy Tech Community College's online school. Lisa gave us some insight on her history with teaching online, why she is so passionate about online learning, and the support she offers her students when they take her online courses. 

What is your background in teaching online and utilizing instructional technologies?

I started teaching full-time as a college professor in 1994. Blackboard started as a company in 1997 and I began utilizing the program in 2002. One of the colleges that I teach for, Ivy Tech Community College, is the largest community college in the United States. Ivy Tech was the largest user of Blackboard 1.0 which was part of the initial launch of the program. In the early 2000s, I was part of the group that taught with Blackboard 1.0. Ivy Tech now utilizes LMS Canvas. 

Ivy Tech was the first college that I taught for online. I actually taught for Ivy Tech on USI's campus.

Would you say you are as passionate about providing your online students a fulfilling educational experience as you were your in-person students? 

Yes, I am firm believer that online education is education. It is the way everything is going... with either 100% online courses, or what we call "technology enhanced" courses (hybrid courses), it is the way the education industry is shifting. For example, both my wife and I have recently earned additional advanced degrees that were through universities in which we never stepped foot on campus. These online programs allowed us achieve very specific, targeted degrees that we would not have been able to achieve otherwise. 

I think my personal example is similar for other students who take online courses. Whether the student works swing shift or they have a family, some students are not able to attend the regular 16-week, on-campus courses in order to earn a degree. Around Evansville, a big population that we serve fall into this category. 

So yes, I am just as passionate about online teaching as I was about in-person teaching. My personal preference is that if I am ever going to develop an online course, I want to teach it in-person first because you can utilize it as a foundation for your online course.

Online classes can be overwhelming for students - what help and support do you provide your students when they take an online class for the first time?

I make sure that I am always accessible. I email my students both the Friday before classes start and the day that classes start a long, sort-of "guide" to what the class is going to be like... technologically, as well as content-wise, I will give them an overview.

At the beginning of the semester, I will give my students what I call a "quick assignment" that is typically a discussion board, just so they can get familiar with the class. I also do this quick assignment to show my students that as soon as they turn an assignment in, I will provide feedback right away, within the next day. 

Something else that I started doing is what I call "elephant files." This tactic goes along with the saying, "how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." I will look over each assignment that I provide my students, and find what the students got right, what they got wrong, what they struggled with.... and at the end of that week I will send what I call the elephant file, which goes in depth of what students struggled with. I provide more examples and discussions. I typically do this every Friday morning, so that students feel like they are getting feedback from me... it isn't just what is posted on Blackboard - it's personal feedback specific to that particular class. 

One last thing that I do for my students, which I started this semester for the first time, is send an individual email to each student addressed to them with some connection point that I can make to them. I read their introduction assignments and then try to establish a relationship from that. It took a lot, as you know, I have about three hundred students a semester... but I am going to get them all done. I want them to have a personal connection to me because I am their online instructor. 

    Thank you, Lisa, for taking the time to provide insight and advice regarding your experiences with teaching online!


    Online Learning

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