Edu 630 Online Teaching and Learning

Moving from Face-2-Face teacher to online instructor


Cracking the egg from the inside

Unit 1

With every online class taken, the importance of participating fully in the social introductions with peers and instructor becomes ever more clear. It sets the tone for the course and gives you a chance to interact before you get assigned a team project(Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

Something seems different about this class, in comparison to the classes I took for the TESOL Master. The prompts are similar, but making connections to the material in the prompts is done in a different way. There is some kind of jump in there you have to make. Might be because this is my first Online Teaching and Learning course, and so I don’t have much stored in my memory or experience on this topic, except from the student perspective. The focus seems to be more on personal/flexible expression in response, applying core concepts in an individual way.

The most important concept I took away from unit one was the notion that there are no passive learners in online instruction(Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). This made me review the interaction in F-2-F classes I have taught, and reflect on how much passive learning was going on and how I could further engage all students.

The second most interesting insight for me was the 3 different lines of communication that takes place in online learning: Faculty to Learner, Learner to Learner, and Learner to Material(Boettcher & Conrad, 2010). While I have learned many interesting things from peers in my TESOL classes, I was more focused on learning from the instructors. However, learner-2-learner communication makes up the majority of communication during an online course, when students comment on peers discussion posts and collaborate on projects (Boettcher & Conrad, 2010 ). It is that collaboration with peers, along with the other two paths of communication, content delivery , and assessment(with rubrics!) that create quality online instruction(Rhode, 2014), as well as clear expectations and patience from the instructor(Boettcher & Conrad, 2010).

Unit 2

Best practices from Jason Rhode (2014) for Online instruction include orienting your learners by teaching them how to navigate the course, technical tips to handle information efficiently, and being careful not to give too much information/material to your online students. To see what not to do in regard to eLearning (one of the types of online learning we studied in this unit) , you can check out this video:

Another best practice is to incorporate multiple intelligence principles into the design of online courses. The dominant theme in applying multiple intelligence in online learning is giving learners multiple ways of responding (Pritchard, A., 2013). Hmmm, that sounds familiar…kind of what I mentioned in Unit 1 about how this course is different.

Unit 3 F-2-F Instructor presence


In F-2-F teaching, it is your physical presence that engages students and peers, with the energy you bring with you to school, your enthusiasm and off the cuff remarks, as you cover the material and field questions.

How are online instructors different from this?

online instructor

Online instructors are facilitators (Noce, Scheffel, & Lowry, 2014). They use their social, teaching, and cognitive presence to create balanced sets of dialogues between faculty-learner, learner-2-learner, and learner-2-material.

The online instructor generally plans the online discussion in more detail, and with more specific goals in mind, than a F-2-F teacher(Boettcher & Conrad, 2010 ). While both types of teachers follow solid teaching pedagogy, including scaffolding of material, and universal standards of thinking when communicating and explaining(Paul. R., 2008), online instructors focus on asking authentic questions, rather than test questions, in order to promote student elaboration and coherence in sustained and meaningful discussion(Noce, Scheffel, & Lowry, 2014). They use key vocabulary on students’ posts, while performing an uptake of students’ ideas to give students an opportunity to apply their knowledge by relating new information to their own experience and knowledge(Noce, Scheffel, & Lowry, 2014)


Writing our first discussion question was an excellent exercise, and it was harder than I thought it would be. It required a distillation process to condense thousands of words of material to 2 or 3 sentences. While the focus of this week’s discussion boards was clearly on forming engaging and relevant questions, I can imagine its quite a bit of work to check out students’ citations in their responses. An online instructor has to know the materials they are using very well. They also have to cut to the heart of the matter, the core concepts of a course, and get their students to engage with, and apply, that knowledge. An interesting 3 weeks!


Boettcher, J. V., & Conrad, R. (2010). The Online Teaching Survival Guide : Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Rhode, J. (2014). Best Practices in Online Teaching. Blog. Retrieved from the internet on September 13, 2015 from

Pritchard, A. (2013).Ways of Learning : Learning Theories and Learning Styles in the Classroom. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Noce, D., Scheffel, D., & Lowry, M. (2014).Questions that get answered: The construction of instructional conversations on online asynchronous discussion boards . MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 10(1).

Paul, R. (2008). On the Intellectual Standards excerpts from the Socratic Questioning Series. The Foundation for Critical Thinking. Video. Retrieved on September 10, 2015 from

Mind Map With Reflection

Culture is about engagement with others that surround you while growing up, and includes sights, sounds, tastes, and all other sensory input that allows one to perceive the world around them. It also includes actions, such as saving face or not even considering saving face, and these actions tie in to the beliefs and values that a culture forms. To learn about one’s own cultural history is to know and understand the context in which one grew up, and that has an important impact on learning. Whether authority figures were supportive and kind, and therefore deserving of respect, or they were people that punished and degraded oneself, is an offshoot of that development. Whether one believes in individualism, and the power of the individual, or collectivism, and the power of the group, is another offshoot.

Growing up surrounded by people that look like you, and think like you is isolating, and limiting. There is a need in education in this country to address the balance between cultural uniformity and diversity. Those who are culturally different to mainstream America, due to their skin color, language and/or dialect, and learning style can be emotionally (and physically) harmed in the US education system by teachers, classmates, and school administrators, when these students are deemed inferior or ignorant because their culture is different from the mainstream. When educators can model respect towards others, empathy, caring, and compassion, students can feel safe, and they can open up and share their own cultural experiences. These experiences may differ, sometimes dramatically, from the mainstream American culture that currently dominates schools across the country, but these differences can be mix together to create a culture that is delicious and nutritious for all.

Opening Up Education


Wolfberg Cracks Cederberg Wilderness South Africa


photo by Palojono on Flickr

Open education is a modern thought on how education can evolve, made possible by the 2.0 Web technology explosion, according to Bonk(2009), who believes “Twenty-first century learning pivots around choices and opportunities rather than sorting individuals according to previous test scores and personal backgrounds. The choices and opportunities he is referring to are MOOCs, online classes, hybrid classes, and open educational content, with tech dominating the classroom which is located in cyber space. As of today, students can use technology to study at MIT, or Harvard, or The Open University in London, without paying money, applying for acceptance, or being graded. This is what open content offers. One simply logs in and learns. In effect, learning becomes more like researching, where the student is given various materials to study and analyze.

While this type of learning is fantastic for professionals, retirees, and those younger than regular university age, because it lifts time and age restrictions on higher/continuing education, it also isolates the user, and ties them to their online tool. There are also massive problems with copyright material being used in open content, as well as the dilemma of whether educational materials should be commercialized or given freely. These are dense problems to resolve. Copyright in particular poses problems for those that would like to offer up open content, but can’t due to copyright restrictions on videos, images, and e-books they are using for a class(McNally, 2012). Educators would need to either spend countless hours tracking done the copyright owners of the material for permission, or search for countless hours on Creative Commons to replace them, or they end up offering online courses with big holes in them(McNally, 2012).

I believe the most exciting and promising aspect of the open education movement is the way materials are being organized according to subject matter, which allows educators to access huge amounts of pages related to their course material (Bonk, 2009). While this is a fantastic addition to education, it does not take away the need to have good teachers; the ones who show students where to look, but not what to see. McNally acknowledges this in his 2012 presentation when he states better education is happening in the physical classroom than on the internet. It is this aspect of teaching, the discussions and critical thinking skills practice, that open content MOOCS can only support, not do. In addition, there is little accountability being offered alongside MOOCs, or the other futuristic learning approaches described by Bonk (2009), such as his idea of independent study, with no testing, earning people credentials.

While organization of online material is the most exciting and promising aspect of the open education movement, it also poses the most difficulties, as it costs money to organize them, and if it is all free, where will the money come from to support the people doing all that work? Besides the people handling the tech side of things, which is countless hours of painstaking work, creative, productive, hardworking educators should also be recognized for their achievements. McNally touched on this topic several times in his lecture, yet he didn’t come close to defining it or answering it, just briefly mentioned that renumeration seemed to be field-dependent. That is a major kink to be worked out if open content hopes to attract top notch individual teachers, and Bonk has simply glazed over this Grand Canyon-wide crack in his enthusiasm for Open Content, bringing us all good news and good cheer about the future of education. But if we look at history, it is normal for new advances to be hailed as saviors, and in fact, many of them have revolutionized our lives, non more so than the internet, and the educational opportunities that are presenting themselves due to it. Then later, the negatives start showing up, impacting our lives, as was the case with automobiles, and their related pollution. What negative effects will open content education have on society?


Bonk, Curtis Jay. The World Is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass, 2009. Print.

McNally, Michael. “Democratizing Access to Knowledge: Find Out What Open Educational Resources (OER) Have to Offer.” Western University, 22 Mar. 2012. Web. 7 Aug. 2014.



I learned many interesting facts about the current state of education in this Future of Education class, as well as much new, insightful information on which direction education is heading towards in America. Being a digital immigrant, I had no idea how isolated and frustrated the digital generations are in the classroom with the current system of education, and how technological developments are not only partially responsible for this dilemma, but perhaps the pathway out of the quagmire. This understanding of how technology is impacting education came about slowly during the course, as evidence was built up during the weekly units. It began with The Future of Learning video in Unit one, quickly followed by Dr. Michael Wesch’s A Vision of Students Today startling video. The momentum built with The Future of Education by Sajan George, which clearly stated the depth of the crisis in education in America, with some ideas about how to move forward. The concrete advice on how to build academic papers interspersed between the potent videos and articles reviewed for class gave time to digest the information and to practice building up our FVE case studies. I was grateful for the way Professor Ajtum-Roberts organized our main project, breaking it down into smaller chunks, giving excellent feedback on each assignment which helped me to be more precise and focused for each assignment. Week 5’s K-12 implosion brought in the economic side of the equation, which I had given very little thought to previously, as I work for a private school which maintains autonomy and financial independence.  While I was aware of massive changes to Pomfretshire’s student population demographics, it was quite shocking to see in Unit 6 the larger national trends America is going through in regards to public education in some parts of the country, though I have to say I think the part of Connecticut in which I live in seems to be in a bubble, and does not share these national trends in demographics. Unit 7’s video by Sir Kenneth Robinson on Changing Educational Paradigms was a complete surprise when he suggested that ADHD rates in the classroom could be directly related to the modern stimulus of new technology pitted against outdated teaching methods. This course was an eye-opener to how things stand educationally across the country, and where things might be heading.

About me


 Hi, welcome to the ESL Free Your Genius blog. My name is Brenda Epifani, and I am an ESL and TOEFL prep instructor. Teaching is my second career. My first was as a scientist, in the field of Environmental Science. That was interesting work, but when I moved overseas for 12 years, I was often asked by friends and strangers alike to help them with their English, so I got certified to do just that, and I love it! There is something personally enriching about teaching, especially those moments when you see the lightbulb go on in a student’s mind, and you know they “got it” and will be able to use it from that point onward.

Returning to university studies after decades of working and teaching has been an interesting experience. It is truly great to learn about new trends in the field of education, and to discuss these trends with my professors, virtual classmates and colleagues at work. My goal is to offer people all over the world ESL and TOEFL prep instruction, even if they have tried to learn English in the past and were unsuccessful, or not successful enough to meet their needs. There is no one size fits all in  second language acquisition methods, and each individual studying English benefits from instruction that is tailored to their individual needs, strengths, and weaknesses.