If you teach math and you haven’t taken a math course online, do yourself a favor and start here. This is not a paid advertisement. I went pretty strong with that title for a blog. (I hope the instructor doesn’t get mad.)
I started a blog today about something completely different and then I looked at enrollment statistics for our upcoming Online Courses starting March 24th. I predict some of those courses will reach their capacities by tomorrow (3/13), and many more will fill by the start date, however, I am pretty confident this feared class won’t fill: MAED 696 Probability of Statistics. Even if the title or the course format isn’t your preference, I want you to give it a chance and consider stretching yourself.
We have chronicled the fear factor of math in past blogs and nearly shamed teachers into taking online courses to get caught up in the digital age. This is different and it’s not a sales pitch. We have enough students now to keep the class, but I want more teachers to know that they should WANT to take this class, even if they are a little afraid of math or online learning. Embrace the challenge to learn something new, just as you ask of your students.
I have mentioned in past blogs that math and science were the last subjects I added to our online course offerings with the reason that my personal background was in teaching humanities and I couldn’t conceptualize teaching anything else online. I didn’t want to offer math and science online courses just to bring in tuition. I was a teacher. I wanted them to be GOOD classes.
We don’t have full time faculty in our department so I capitalized on the good nature of our hard working adjuncts. I checked their interest and asked them to convince me that people would walk away from these classes learning as much as they would in a face to face course. Knowing the impact of technology in the lives of K-12 students, I also wanted the classes to inspire the participants to use more technology in their classes, but I didn’t task the adjuncts with doing that. I hoped it would happen organically and I believe it has.
One of our online instructors, a high school math teacher, was not keen on offering math classes in an online format. I appreciated her honesty. Then she had to meet a certification requirement for herself but couldn’t fit it in her busy schedule as a full time teacher, soccer coach, math tutor and probably many more things I don’t know about. She took our online Classroom Management (starting 3/24 too) and called me with inspiration of how to successfully teach math online. Merely taking an online class, even one outside of her main subject area, forced her to think about using technology in a way that would enhance her favorite classes.
We had a student in the online Probability and Stats class a few summers ago who called after the first week and wanted to drop. With our discounted tuition, we need pretty strict drop policies to make sure we’ll have enough tuition to pay the instructors and he had called past the drop deadline. But he sounded both miserable and irate so I wanted to hear him out. What I learned in letting him vent was that his biggest problem in the class was that he was out of his comfort zone. He was a veteran math teacher but hadn’t had a stats class in a long time and computers weren’t his strong suit. He gave me excuses about not understanding the first week’s topic, he didn’t know how to do the homework and he wanted out. I asked him if he contacted the instructor or watched the video the instructor had provided. Because he had technology problems and was embarrassed to ask a colleague for help, he was frustrated by the time he called us, which was really why he didn’t want to continue. The problem was, he also needed to know the content better before the next school year but was worried about passing the class.
I did my best to convince him that the instructor was a very agreeable person and welcomed any questions. We talked through one or two steps that enabled him to watch the videos the instructor made using an iPad the same way she would use a whiteboard in a face to face class. The iPad also recorded her voice while she demonstrated example problems that coincided with PowerPoint slides just as she would have used if you took her class at Trinity. This is a short example of one of these online teaching demonstrations.
One clear advantage this student needed was that he could watch those videos multiple times until he got the content without any other student knowing. He sounded much calmer by the end of our call but still wasn’t interested in staying in the class. I asked him to do me the favor of giving it another week and contacting the instructor before he dropped. If he still didn’t want the class, I would break our drop deadline policy and give him a full refund without asking him anything else. Not only did I not hear from this student again, he also got an A in the class and had one of the highest percentages.
I’ve finally gotten to my point. For those of you who could use a math class but aren’t thrilled about the online aspect of our MAED 696, challenge yourself and see what this teaching format can teach you. Statistics are everywhere. In fact, I find it ironic that me looking at enrollment statistics is what got me started on this blog. I apologize if you would have preferred I didn’t stretch myself by finishing it. Hope to see you online!