Online Community

Leave Me Alone! OK, maybe not...

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a local gathering of online instructors in my area that was facilitated by the BYU-Idaho online department.  Members of the Online Instructor leadership team from BYU-Idaho traveled to the meeting.

As part of this meeting, there was a Q&A.  One instructor brought up our "Weekly Reflect Reports" and how he felt that the ranking scale was not the way he would like to see it done.  He also mentioned that, years ago, instructors had to input a bunch of hard data such as:  how many phone calls, emails, etc. they had made that week.  The person from the leadership team answered the question.  Part of the answer was that they are trying to make it easier on the instructors to report how the instructor feels they are doing.

In response to this, one of the other instructors mentioned that this is his first semester teaching for BYU-Idaho but that he has been teaching online for another university as well.  He said that the other university only talks to him once at the beginning of the semester and then just leaves him alone to manage the course as he wants.  He feels that BYU-Idaho micromanages the instructors and he just wishes that they would just leave him alone and let him do his job...

This response saddened and hurt me deeply.  With that said, I confess that there have been a few times when I have felt that way.  However, I am so glad that I wasn’t “left alone”!  As instructors, we are on the front lines of truly helping care for Heavenly Father’s children.  I live in Utah but have students in Ghana.  The impact that I have on the student in Ghana is significant.  By helping the student, I am helping them change their life, their current and future family’s lives as well as improving their communities.  The impact that I have is that of Eternal consequence.  Do I really want to be “left alone” to do this all by myself?  The answer is a resounding “No”!

I am not simply teaching a class.  I am helping Heavenly Father’s children to grow and progress.  I cannot and do not want to do this on my own.  I welcome all of the help that Heavenly Father will provide me.  I know that this will often come through individual inspiration but also through those around me.  Heavenly Father will inspire those whose have stewardship over this program to help me as well.  We all understand that sometimes this help is easier to accept than other times.

Please don’t get me wrong, I do not “Love” weekly reflections, synchronous and asynchronous meetings, discussion boards, etc.  However, I do “Love” that I am not expected to do this on my own.  I am grateful for a loving Father in Heaven that loves his children and gives us the tool that we can use to help his children all over the earth.

I am not sure if this makes sense to anyone other than myself.  However, I do thank you for letting me share my thoughts.

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  • Fascinating conversation.  Teaching Life Skills and being a Teaching Group Leader are my second (and third?) jobs.  I work full time, serve as Stake Young Men president, have a wife and four daughters.  I'm a busy guy.  However, I have never felt the requirements for fulfilling those roles have been unnecessary.  Although at times I have pondered whether the compensation for the TGL role is commiserate with the work required, I haven't found the work superfluous. 

    Furthermore, existing in the corporate world for my day job, I don't find the level of accountability to be onerous.  Rather, I found it to be expected when I started teaching; I feel that since we teach at a Church institution, I think those feedback loops are more important than ever.  We both recognize the greater significance of what we're doing but also recognize that our professional critiques may be ineffectual due to our desire to be kind.  In the final analysis, the main concern are the students.  If additional accountability leads to a better result for the students - so be it.  If not, then adjustments should be made.  I think Instructors should be open to critique and feedback.  Stagnation blunts the effectiveness of professionals in every industry and consistent feedback loops - course visits, synchronous meetings, etc. - can alleviate stagnation. 

    • Well stated Adam. I especially like what you said about accountability leading to better results for students. It would seem to me that we should be making a conscious effort (if we aren't already) to insure that everything we do in Online Instruction is ultimately for the benefit of student achievement academically and spiritually. :-)

  • I like interacting with others. I like the fact that when I have questions, I know someone I can turn to.

  • This is a tough one and it is scary to voice a dissenting opinion that is probably not very popular. I have four kids, I teach full-time for another institution and so BYU-I is my "night job". I tend to land of the side of, "leave me alone", especially when it comes to the synchronous meetings, but I do understand they are helpful for teachers who are newer in the online teaching arena. In the online learning world, I'm sort of an old dog that been around the block a few times- ten years to be exact.

    I have, very gratefully, seen BYU-I refine what they ask us to report on each year and all the changes have always been for the better, and I don't say that lightly. I definitely appreciate that our support team is listening to our wish for simplicity and streamlining. We used to have to host an office hours period each week. Students rarely, if ever, came so they did away with it. This is only one example of what the online team has done to simplify our jobs. So, a huge thank you to our support team for that! :)

    Sometimes I think it would be interesting to have different synchronous meeting pathways for teachers. Teachers who are new and teachers who have been doing this for a long time have different needs and would probably benefit from learning different things. Also, meeting twice a semester might be as effective as meeting each month for seasoned teachers. Just a few thoughts for the powers that be. 

    • Your suggestion to have different synchronous meetings for beginner and experienced teachers is an interesting thought.  I kind of like that idea. However, I know that when I was new I sure did benefit from those that had been teaching for awhile. 

    • Kristin,

      I understand your feelings completely.  BYU-I is my second job while I work a full time job in the day.  I have 5 kids ages 7 and under.  I inevitably dread my synchronous meetings because I have so many things to do for my students and never enough time.  However, (almost without fail) I pick up something helpful, uplifting, and time saving from my meetings.  I'm on the fence about whether synchronous meetings should be required or not.  I get a lot out of them but never have enough time to look forward to them.

      • Kristin, wow, how in the world do you handle the full-time job with 5 kids so young?! Holy moly. I couldn't handle it with ONE! Kudos to you. 

    • I appreciate your candid feedback Kristin. I too wonder if having two different tracks for new v. veteran instructors for synchronous meetings would be beneficial. For some time now I have wondered if after a certain number of semesters teaching online warrants only having three required synchronous meetings a year... 1. Fall Forum, 2. Winter Webinar, 3. Spring Conference (evening streamed session).

      I still find incredible value in the asynchronous nature of the online community where we can engage with small and large groups of instructors regardless of new or veteran status. :-)

      • Maybe the synchronous meetings could be optional for veterans.  The meetings are always recorded, and they are there as a reference if need be.  Just a thought. . .

        • The veterans are the ones who have the answers to the questions the rookies are asking, aren't they?

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