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Ilana Turetsky: How Online Learning Enriches the Teaching and Learning Experience

The upcoming summer semester will mark my fourth semester teaching online courses at Azrieli Graduate School. I have found the experience to be enriching, broadening, and stimulating. While some may envision online teaching as a direct transfer from the live classroom to the virtual setting, I perceive online teaching as a categorically different enterprise. Allow me to share three brief thoughts on my experiences teaching online, highlighting some of the unique features that I believe online learning affords.

1. Student processing of information

Student processing of material learned in my online courses is, in certain ways, far richer than in a traditional face-to-face course. This is due to a simple reason: students are asked to generate some kind of product on every topic they learn.

The driving force behind constantly asking students to produce is twofold:

(a) Accountability: In a live setting, a student’s physical presence indicates some minimal form of engagement with the  course and thus serves as a basic form of accountability. By contrast, the lack of a physical presence in an online course necessitates creation of accountability in other ways. I can assign an array of rich and stimulating resources to explore. However, without asking students to do something with that material, I have no way of ascertaining whether students even looked at the material, let alone engaged richly with the ideas therein.

(b) Promoting active learning: My preparation for each online learning module, that is, weekly learning unit, involves a two-step process: (1) “What is the most important content that I want students to master this week?” Once I identify my primary learning goals, I consider (2) “What learning experiences can I create to help my students master that material?” More often than not, this step of crafting active, meaningful, and engaging learning experiences requires far more time, creativity, and effort on my part than the preparation of the actual content. Though in theory this focus on the process of learning should be no different in a traditional course, I find the online course setting to be more promotive of this two-step preparation process. Perhaps this is because the online context lends itself less naturally to the traditional lecture format or because presenting a written explanation of each week’s module forces the instructor to carefully and sharply think through all elements of that week’s learning process.

Read the full article in eJewishPhilanthropy

Ilana Turetsky, EdD is an instructor in Jewish Education at Yeshiva University’s Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration. The opinions expressed above are solely those of the author and should not be attributed to Yeshiva University.