The last few years have changed the way education is approached and delivered in significant ways, both positive and negative. While many community members have heard about the experience of online classes from the perspective of the students, many have not heard from the perspective of a faculty member.

I have spent the last two-plus years not only teaching online courses, but also helping my colleagues with the many extra steps that are required to deliver rigorous and accessible online classes as a member of the Faculty Support Coach mentoring program that began at the beginning of the pandemic.

What started as an emergency service to simply deploy classes into the online modality has morphed into a program that helps faculty build quality online content for their courses using technology tools that reinforce high-quality pedagogy in online teaching practices and course building.

As a faculty member, my goal, as well as the expectation of others, is to provide the best education no matter which mode I am asked to use. This means being willing to do the work to make online courses as rigorous as face-to-face classes. Quality and effectiveness of learning is not tied to the mode of instruction, but the way to accomplish each is different.  

What I used to be able to do was go into a classroom, deliver a lecture, answer questions, ask questions, facilitate debate, explain assignments, connect with my students, and provide a touchstone to their educational experience. Now, I must figure out ways to do that in online classes, and it takes a lot of time, preparation and dedication to make it work.

Online education can be a lot more work for faculty, and some students find it very difficult to stay engaged, focused and motivated; however, online classes have some very clear advantages. Most importantly, they offer convenience and flexibility needed for many students to be able to access higher education. Those who had barriers of work and/or family obligations are more likely to be able to fit classes and study time into their schedules.

In addition, online classes teach self-discipline, which is an important skill that is necessary in the business environment. And we cannot forget the importance of being able to adapt to new situations successfully. My best advice for first-time online students would be to set aside a regular study time just as you would a face-to-face class, and communicate with your instructor early and often to stay on top of what is expected.

Many of us want nothing more than to return to classrooms full of students, but this is not the reality of where higher education is right now. According to enrollment statistics, it appears the online courses are very popular and are here to stay.

As long as there is a demand for online classes, we must evolve our thinking about how we deliver higher education and meet our college’s vision to “provide transformative and empowering educational experiences to meet student and community needs.”

Karen Deeming

Professor, Merced College