Happy New Year, 2017

If there is one quote that could sum up 2016, it would come from the one and only, Abraham Lincoln: “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Despite a lot of pessimism about the future, I also remain very positive and hopeful. I know that education is still the only path forward for everyone. I know that reading daily is a habit with numerous benefits, and I know something important about myself that I didn’t last January. If I’m not blessed, I’m extremely fortunate. I could have been born in a country with less than half of the liberties, securities and wealth than my own, and to a family that didn’t value its benefits. We’re not a perfect country, and 2016 was a less than perfect year, but I’m still looking forward to 2017. Happy New Year!

Excellent Online Teaching

I’ve been teaching online now for over 4 years, and one of the first downsides to the profession that I noticed was the student dropout rate. In the first year or two, once or twice a month I would receive and email with a subject line like “Jane Doe Has Dropped US History I,” and I worried that it was my fault, only to discover that Jane had dropped every class in which she was enrolled. Worry aside, that’s not to say there wasn’t something I could do better.

Searching online I came across the book Excellent Online Teaching: Effective Strategies For a Successful Semester Online, and I was struck by how simple some of the fixes were to improve engagement. After reading the book and implementing some of the author’s suggestions, I became less of a grading mule, and more of a teacher who interacted with students online, and responsive to the needs of students who, in many cases, are without the induced discipline, restraints and expectations of a brick-and-mortar classroom (one of the largest obstacles in the online education environment).

Four years in and I hear from students frequently, respond promptly, and the amount of students who stick with and pass my classes has increased substantially. I owe much of the success in my online classes to the author and the tips & strategies he shared. Teachers and parents alike would benefit from reading Aaron Johnson’s book Excellent Online Teaching.