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Get over it and take the selfie.

selfie definitionAlright, online instructors, it’s time to step up our game. Selfie was Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2013. If you aren’t at least on board with these, you’re falling way, way behind (and I say that as someone who still isn’t comfortable taking them but does it because I know it helps my students). If you’ve been afraid or embarrassed, take your camera, turn it around, and snap a pic. It’s time to put yourself into your course.

In what has been defined as the “third generation” of online instruction, engagement with our students through multi-modal learning and connection is a must.

Let’s stop for a minute and think about the environment our students live in outside of class, whether traditional or virtual. It’ll help us think about our pedagogies differently. In their current world, students post and receive feedback from peers instantaneously. Information is at their literal fingertips. Their desk is always at hand; and their study environment is always in flux—their apartments, dorm hallways, breakrooms at work, coffee shops, and, if we’re lucky, libraries. They can video chat with complete strangers from around the world through a variety of apps. They’re working, listening, watching, texting, and studying—simultaneously. It’s true. I once sat in the coffee shop on campus for conferences and watched a student work on her tablet, phone, and laptop all at once with textbook in front of her. With little effort, she moved swiftly in and out of her technological network. It’s amazing what our students can do.

Now, let’s consider for a moment a student’s experience in a ho hum online class. The student logs in and peruses the course site. In it, the students sees a list of links to institutional policies, the syllabus written on a tab (with Word doc attached), discussion boards based purely on textual posts, assignments defined in, again, Word documents. And, maybe, just maybe, a few narrated PowerPoints. But no videos because you hate the way you look on video. And how weird is it to record? Where will you do it? It’s too much hassle. The narrated PowerPoints are fine. Are they? If you’re not keeping up with Web 2.0-level engaging content, 2015 is the year to do it. Because, guess what? We can do amazing things as their instructors, too.

Last term I made a concerted effort to include meaningful (remember this) videos into my courses. In my end-of-term reviews, I had students leaving comments like “It was like I was in the classroom with her” and “I loved seeing her in class without ever meeting her in person” and “this was the most engaging online class I’ve ever taken.” Were they uncomfortable to record? Very. In fact, sometimes I didn’t even watch them back all the way through. Did all of these videos take me time? Of course they did. This term, it took me even longer because I decided to re-record several of them. But, it’s time well spent, trust me. Get over your fear and get into your class—virtually.

Here are some tools to help you out:

  1. EyeJot.com – Allows you to record 5 minute emails and send them directly to your students. You can also type in or attach your transcript. A good first step.
  2. Animoto.com – Allows you to create videos using images, video clips, music and text. Easy to use and creates some really great videos to introduce topics or assignments.
  3. Screenr.com – Offers a free online screen recorder.
  4. Audioboom.com – Allows you to easily record audio from a mobile device or desktop. Start even simpler with this and at least put your voice out there.

Yeah, these are great tools to beef up your presence, but let’s go back to that word I used before—meaningful. Before you implement any of these, you have to consider why you’re doing it. What are your goals? How does this tool help you meet them? Does it strengthen your course in any way? How? These questions and your answers help ensure you aren’t just tossing shiny things into your course, turning it into a collection of internet junk rather than an effective learning experience.

Meredith Singleton selfieHonestly, get over your fear. This is probably the one thing I hear most from great instructors. I admit it took me time to get used to recording and, honestly, I still hate selfies. I rarely take them and post them even less. I’m only doing it now for the purpose of this post!

But, now’s the time and here’s the opportunity to put your students first and get in front of the webcam. Your students expect it. They deserve it. And you can do it.

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