Thursday, October 10, 2013

Humanizing Your Online Class -- wow, what a webinar!

I have presented many webinars in my life ... but yesterday's Inside Higher Ed webinar, Humanizing Your Online Class, was pretty special. I saw the attendance number tick past 600 at one point! The question stream was dynamic and the Twitter chat was fabulous too -- thanks to Whitney Kilgore for Storifying the Twitter chat here and to Academic Partnerships for sponsoring the webinar, as a kick off for their free Human Element (#humanmooc) micro mooc (learn more here).

If you missed the webinar and would like to view it, the video archive is embedded below and may also be viewed here.

Some of my takeaways from the conversation were the concerns expressed by faculty about the amount of time it takes to "humanize" an online class in accordance with the examples I showcased in the webinar. My examples exemplify the use of free to low cost and easy-to-use tools which, to me empower faculty who have little to no technology experience.  For example, creating a warm, friendly welcome video with a tool like Animoto is really something that can be done by anyone (really ... try it! and I bet you'll even have so much fun doing it that you'll make another one...maybe for someone you care about).

As I reflect more deeply on the conversation in the webinar, I continue to ask myself one thing. Should the question at hand be, "How to humanize an online class?" or is the question we should be reflecting more deeply on, "Why aren't online classes more human?" Are the real issues lack of technological ability or lack of time? Or are these issues deeply entangled with more sensitive topics that are generally undiscussable? For example, how vulnerable professors feel when revealing our personal stories, "real" expressions, and relating to and with our students on a more equal level in asynchronous voice or video exchanges (all important to community building)? I don't have the answer to this question but it's one that I'm thinking a lot about right now. And it has me replaying Brene Brown's fabulous Ted Talk over and over in my mind, as I think all members of higher education (including students) need to embrace her research driven finding that vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation and creativity.

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