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Running Head: What Had Prevented or Slowed My Engagement in Online Teaching

What Had Prevented or Slowed My Engagement in Online Teaching


Factors that got in the way of my adopting an online teaching practice
By Prof. Jonathan Acua Solano
Saturday, July 10, 2015
Twitter: @jonacuso
Post 183

In hindsight, my former professional teaching life faced some impediments to


become a bit more technology-oriented. As I reflect on my school days in the 70s, I still
have some vivid remembrances of some of my teachers. As stated by Bentu-Alonso
(2015, July 10), when I was a schoolboy in my country the education was not facing the
challenges of today. Even in that poor relevant learning model, I appreciated the best
when a teacher took his role seriously and tried to teach so good as he could, playing
with all the resources he got in front of him. But if we 21st Century instructors want to
take our role seriously, we must try to teach as well as we can with the technological
resources we have at our hands.
At the beginning of my teaching life, access to technology was a serious mishap
in ELT. Not only did I face limitations in [my] regular access to reliable or appropriate
technology (UNSW, n.d.), but also my students faced restraints in regards to computers.
At this moment in history, at least in my EFL and higher education teaching scenarios in
Costa Rica, these are no problems anymore. Our learners do have more access to
technology that can help them construct their knowledge, skills, and competencies.

Written by Prof. Jonathan Acua

What Had Prevented or Slowed My Engagement in Online Teaching

Access to the Internet was a big issue some ten years ago around Costa Rica. I
still remember when I asked my students to download their homework projects from the
university platform, and many of them claimed that they had no means to do so, needless
to mention their complaints that they lacked a PC at home to develop the assignments.
But now we do not fight this disadvantage anymore. Costa Ricans live in a country where
33.5% of the population have access to the Web and 67% out of this 33.5% do have
access to the Internet via smartphones (Cuen, 2014, March 14). The vast majority of
university students have access to the Internet and use it on a regular basis. This is not
an impediment anymore to move ones class to the worldwide web.
One of the obstacles I have personally faced with my language trainees is their
inability to use technology. Just because 21st Century learners have a smartphone and
regularly use social media, this does not mean that they are effective users of technology
to help them learn. As a professor of mine, Dr. Deborah Healey (University of Oregon),
once told us, we teachers are the ones who have to train pupils how to manage the
pieces of technology we want them to use in their learning process to achieve learning
goals. To do this, the instructors need to have training or self-trained themselves before
the actual utilization of a technology piece in a course.
Isolation is one of those problems that can be easily fixed by an educator, so it
should not be a real problem in online learning scenarios. Online instructors must have a
control of the three basic presences in VLEs: instructor social presence, teaching
presence, and student cognitive presence. If these three basic online presences are
present, my role as instructor is to provide students with a channel to synchronously or
asynchronously be in touch with me by means of virtual student attention hours or by
means of email messages that will be answered in less than 24 hrs. The learners need to
comprehend that they are not isolated, and instructors must not give room to isolation,
either.

Written by Prof. Jonathan Acua

What Had Prevented or Slowed My Engagement in Online Teaching

Information overload is another matter of contention to be aware of. At the


beginning students usual complaint was, Where do I get the information to work on my
assignment? And that was indeed a very good query coming from learners! After
analyzing PBL strategies and seeing how WebQuests were created, we the instructional
course designers of our own courses need to provide them with what is the minimum
required information. From that point on, students can go on their own and search for
more suitable information for their research or project purposes. Yes, the Internet is
inhabited by tons and tons of information, but the first pieces need to be provided by the
instructor. As soon as we understand this issue with information overload, it should not
be a problem anymore.
To conclude, the key restrictions, limitations or considerations (UNSW, n.d.)
proposed in the Learning to Teach Online MOOC at Coursera.Org are quite in force even
today. Depending where our teaching is taking place, the key points are very valid for
educators as well for learners. Many instructors have already started their journey
towards online teaching, and though limitations will arise, go ahead and face the
challenges that need to be overcome to become an online instructor.

Bentu-Alonso, X. (2015, July 10). Re: Why is online teaching important to you, and
what are the benefits? [Online Forum Comment] Retrieved on 2015, July 10 from the
Learning to Teach Online MOOC at Coursera.Org at https://class.coursera.org/ltto002/forum/thread?thread_id=271
Cuen, D. (2014, March 14). Es Costa Rica un paraso en internet? Retrieved on 2015,
July 10 from the BBC Mundo webpage at
http://www.bbc.com/mundo/blogs/2014/03/140314_blog_un_mundo_feliz_costa_rica_
web
UNSW. (n.d.). Why is online teaching important? Learning to Teach Online. Retrieved
on 2015, Thursday 9 from
https://d396qusza40orc.cloudfront.net/ltto/pdf/LTTO_M1_Importance.pdf

Written by Prof. Jonathan Acua