CHAPTER 1: Introduction to Online Teaching in the Helping Professions: Where Do You Fit In?
What are your goals for online teaching?
What are you looking for in this book that will support your online teaching goals?
Have you taught an online class or taken an online class before?
Where are your gaps in knowledge?
What resources do you need to effectively teach your course?
Who do you know in the field who teaches online courses?
What resources are available in and around your institution that can support your online teaching practice?
So, you want to teach an online course or in an online program . . .
Okay, maybe you are reluctant, but you have been charged with developing an online program or teaching a course online. Now you are looking for help and direction on how and where to start this journey. It's okay if you are feeling a little overwhelmed or stumped on where to start—we have been there and we are here to help.
Our hope for you, as you read this book, is that you will examine who you are as a person and instructor. As you do so, begin to consider your identity as an online instructor within the helping professions. What do you already bring to the course? How will you share your gifts, knowledge, and expertise in the online space?
We, the authors, have been teaching online courses for a collective 23 years. Through the years and through all the courses we've taught, we have made tons of errors and mistakes, discovered what works and what doesn't, grappled with personal challenges, took blind leaps of faith into innovative technology, developed new ways of being and relating online, and learned to embrace online modes of instruction and modeling to our students. From our experiences, we have “gathered our thoughts” for online teaching success with good outcomes for our students.
Let us take you by the hand and walk this journey with you. We will share our experiences and help you think through course design, requisite technology, and helpful resources to smooth your transition. We also offer tips, tricks, activities, exercises, and personal points of reflection to get you started.
Buckle up and enjoy the ride as we navigate teaching and learning online.
Why Online Education?
Online learning is a hot topic. It is one of the fastest growing trends in the educational use of technology:
The National Center for Education Statistics reported that 12,153,000 online students are enrolled in in postsecondary, credit-granting courses (Parsad, Lewis, & Tice, 2008).
Technology-based distance learning in K–12 public schools grew by about 65% between 2002 and 2005, and in 2007 more than 1 million K–12 students took online courses (Picciano & Seaman, 2007).
In the fall of 2010, more than 6.1 million students were taking at least one online course (Bart, 2011).
31% of all higher education students now take at least one course online (Allen & Seaman, 2011).
Currently, online education programs are typically asynchronous; the technology used for these courses includes emails, discussion forums, article reviews, and narrated slides or film clips (Brown, 2002, p. 9; Vogel & Klassen, 2001, pp. 104–114; Yang & Cornelious, 2004). However, recent improvement in synchronous teaching technology means that more interactive discussions, assignments, and exercises can be built into the course design. For example, some courses use web conferencing or virtual meetings via Blackboard Collaborate, Adobe Connect, and other synchronous platforms (Rockinson-Szapkiw & Walker, 2009, pp. 175–193; Smith et al., 2015, pp. 47–57; Ting, 2016).
The recent explosion of online classes and programs in higher education in the United States is attributed to shortages in classroom space and facilities due to rapid growth in the student population. Developing new online programs is far more cost-effective than constructing new buildings. Also, the growing numbers of nontraditional students, including working adults, often find it challenging to commute to campus to attend face-to-face classes. Some students live in a remote area or far from campus, or they may have family, work, or other commitments that prevent them from taking on-campus classes. For these students, online programs enable them to take classes wherever they are and usually without time limitations—although virtual class meetings for students in faraway time zones may make attendance a challenge.
Online education and technology make new demands on instructors, of course, but they also put unique demands on students. Students enrolled in online classes can study at their own pace by following a weekly study schedule or following topical learning modules, and they usually only need a desktop or laptop computer with Internet access to take the course.
Online education is a better match for some personalities and learning types than for others. It works especially well for students who are self-disciplined, independent learners who are flexible, open to using technology, willing to take initiative, and able to work in groups (Schwitzer, Ancis, & Brown, 20011)
Online Education in the Helping Professions
The growing popularity of online learning extends to the helping professions. In the United States, there are 34 online master's programs in counselor education are listed on the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) website. In social work education, there are at least 15 baccalaureate-level programs and 63 master's programs that are fully or mostly online, according to the Council on Social Work Education.
The benefits of moving courses into the virtual world in the helping professions are similar to those in other programs: flexibility of scheduling, ability to reach students in distant locations, fewer demands on physical classroom space on campus, and self-paced student learning that focuses on areas that the student finds especially interesting (El Mansour & Mupinga, 2007, pp. 242–248). However, there is interesting research suggesting that online forums may be especially helpful in our field. One study offered that today's technological natives are really comfortable in digital-land, and that students are willing to disclose more when they are not in a physical classroom of peers (Trepal, Haberstroh, Duffey, & Evans, 2007, pp. 226–279). The anonymity of virtual meetings has the social function of a mask at a carnival, offering “certain kinds of relief from [those] massive pressures that societies place on individuals” (Oravec, 1996, p. 153).
Our hope is that this book will be a companion manual for you to read and reread as you learn and experiment with your online courses and programs. The nature of the book invites you into the process by reflecting on your own experiences as an individual, instructor, and helping professional. You will notice throughout the book that we have included guided questions and reflective prompts to help you to consider how you might use the information the authors share with you.
Let's get started . . .
Why did you select this book to read?
What do you hope to learn by reading the content of the book?
Where do you feel like you are beginning as an online instructor?
As a helping professional, what are you most curious about learning in the online environment?
What do you already know about teaching in the online, hybrid, and/or blended models?
HELPFUL TIP: You might have noticed that online learning is called by a variety of names. Terms such as online learning, e-learning, distance learning, e-courses, distance education, and online instruction all refer to the process of teaching via an online teaching platform.
“Will it be easy? Nope. Worth it? Absolutely.”—Unknown.
1 This matches well with findings from another similar study:
Clingerman, T. L., & Bernard, J. M. (2004). An investigation of e-mail as a supplemental modality for clinical supervision. Counselor Education and Supervision, 43, 82–95. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6978.2004.tb01862.x.
- Allen, I. E., & Seaman, J. (2011). Going the distance: Online education in the United States. Newburyport, MA: Sloan Consortium. Retrieved from http://www.babson.edu/Academics/centers/blank-center/global-research/Documents/going-the-distance.pdf
- Bart, M. (2011, December 2). More than six million students learning online, study finds. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/edtech-news-and-trends/more-than-6-million-students-learning-online-study-finds
- Brown, D. G. (2002). The role you play in online discussion. Syllabus, 16(5), 9. Retrieved from: https://campustechnology.com/Articles/2002/11/The-Role-you-Play-in-Online-Discussions.aspx
- El Mansour, B., & Mupinga, D. M. (2007). Students' positive and negative experiences in hybrid and online classes. College Student Journal, 41(1), 242–248. Retrieved from ERIC database. Eric Document EJ765422.
- Oravec, J. A. (1996). Virtual individuals, virtual groups: Human dimensions of groupware and computer networking. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
- Picciano, A. G., & Seaman, J. (2007). K–12 online learning: A survey of U.S. school district administrators. Boston, MA: Sloan Consortium. Retrieved from http://www.sloan-c.org/publications/survey/K-12_06
- Schwitzer, A. M., Ancis, J. R., & Brown, N. (2001). Promoting student learning and student development at a distance: Student affairs concepts and practices for televised instruction and other forms of distance education. Lanham, MD: American College Personnel Association.
- Smith, R. L., Flamez, B., Vela, J. C., Schomaker, S. A., Fernandez, M. A., & Armstrong, S. N. (2015). An exploratory investigation of levels of learning and learning efficiency between online and face-to-face instruction. Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation, 6(1), 47–57. doi:10.1177/2150137815572148
- Ting, S. R. (2016, September). Evaluation of an online counseling program. Paper presented at the Eleventh International Conference on Teaching, Education, and Learning, London, UK.
- Yang, Y., & Cornelious, L. F. (2004, October). Ensuring quality in online education instructions: What instructors should know?. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, Chicago, IL. Retrieved from ERIC database. ERIC Document ED484990.