Jump-Start Your Online Classroom: Mastering Five Challenges in Five Days
reviewed by Linda Barril - December 20, 2018
Title: Jump-Start Your Online Classroom: Mastering Five Challenges in Five Days
Author(s): David S. Stein & Constance E. Wanstreet
Publisher: Stylus Publishing, Sterling, VA
ISBN: 1620365812, Pages: 170, Year: 2017
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Providing techniques, tools, and tips for new online instructors, Jump-Start Your Online Classroom orients new instructors and those who are transitioning from the physical classroom to the online learning environment. The authors aim is to prepare new online instructors for the first few weeks of their course, including how they can create an online teaching presence and encourage and support knowledge-building and collaboration. In addition to perspectives collected from new online instructors, the content was developed based on learner feedback received from a variety of online courses, and the authors present an online andragogy consistent with their voices (p. x).
While there are numerous publications on best practices for online teaching and learning, this book is unique in its use of step-by-step processes and guidelines. Beginning with personal reflections and self-assessments of online teaching competencies and attitudes, new online instructors can determine their own readiness and aptitude in what is required to be effective in the online environment.
The book is organized according to five challenges: (a) making the transition to online teaching, (b) building online spaces for learning, (c) preparing students for online learning, (d) managing and facilitating the online classroom, and (e) assessing learner outcomes. There are nine appendices that cover instructors orientation toward and readiness for online teaching (e.g., questionnaires), plans and checklists for time management and learner communication, including specific ideas for engaging learners and orienting them to online learning, technology applications for online course development and interaction, and a tool kit with some teaching strategies and troubleshooting ideas for online instructors based on the authors experiences and new instructor and learner feedback. Additional online resources for faculty development are provided via the books website.
Written by Associate Professor David E. Stein from The Ohio State University and Constance E. Wanstreet, Instructional Designer from Franklin University, the book reflects their experience in adult learning and online education. Dr. Stein specializes in faculty development and has written extensively on how adults learn in online environments (Stylus Publishing, 2018). Dr. Wanstreet has created various adult workplace training programs and has presented at numerous international and national conferences, primarily on how adults learn online (Stylus Publishing, 2018).
Each of the five challenges mentioned above requires about four hours of effort according to Stein and Wanstreet, who suggest that new online instructors tackle one challenge each day. The authors provide a completion plan template to help instructors organize, schedule, and track their progress through the challenges. The book begins with a description of the online learning environment, which the authors believe should be learner-centered, highly interactive, collaborative, and constructivist (p. 2). Importance is placed on developing instructor presence and creating a knowledge-building learning community in which all participants accept coownership of the teaching and learning process (p. 3). The instructor serves as the facilitator who establishes clear policies, processes, and expectations, and provides consistent and timely feedback according to the authentic assessment of academic and real-world learning outcomes.
There are a number of strengths in this book, including the incorporation feedback from new instructors and learners on their online teaching and learning experiences. Their comments, which start off each new chapter, along with others that are highlighted within the text, provide thought-provoking, diverse perspectives that should prove useful for new online instructors. Specific examples are provided for various elements, and there are numerous tables included that help to visually organize key concepts and processes. Each chapter concludes with valuable reflection points.
While the tables and rubrics can be quite useful, other visual formatting concepts and options would be helpful in the book, since teaching and learning are not often so linear, particularly for problem-based courses. Encouraging new instructors (and their online learners) to think about connections and flows would be useful, perhaps by including concept mapping tools. In terms of learning and assessment, while it is important to clearly define expectations for online learners, extensive use of rubrics for learning and assessment curtails creativity and innovation, and will likely lead to conformative assessment (Torrance, 2012, p. 332, original emphasis).
The book lacks substantive content on the critical issue of technical support in the online environment. There appears to be an assumption that the new instructor will easily be able to develop their online class simply by following the processes and procedures as described, when in fact many instructors (and learners) who are new to the online environment will experience great difficulty. Even if the online course is created by a designer, the instructor would still need perhaps extensive technical support to manage the course. Similarly, the new instructor must provide learners with the technical support they will need to be successful.
Finally, there is no serious discussion of the diversity and cultural inclusivity that are vital to building an online learning community. It is particularly important that new online instructors build cultural awareness, since their own cultural perspectives strongly influence their instruction (e.g., Baird, Andrich, Hopfenbeck, & Stobart, 2017; Jung & Gunawardena, 2014). The design of specific learning and assessment goals that focus on inclusion is a skill that can be developed through continued awareness and practice.
Overall, this is a good general book for instructors who are new to online teaching. It will expose them to some key best practices, stimulate their thought processes, and encourage reflection. For those who appreciate a linear, step-by-step guide to thinking about and planning how to teach online, this book will be useful, and will also come in handy as a reference resource.
Baird, J.-A., Andrich, D., Hopfenbeck, T. N., & Stobart, G. (2017). Assessment and learning: Fields apart? Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 24(3), 317350.
Jung, I., & Gunawardena, C. N. (2014). Culture and online learning: Global perspectives and research. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
Stylus Publishing. (2018). Jump-start your online classroom: Mastering five challenges in five days Authors. Retrieved from https://styluspub.presswarehouse.com/browse/book/9781620365816/Jump-Start%20Your%20Online%20Classroom.
Torrance, H. (2012). Formative assessment at the crossroads: Conformative, deformative and transformative assessment. Oxford Review of Education, 38(3), 323342.