Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Ask the Administrator: The Online Teaching Demo

A new correspondent writes:

I just recently passed the phone interview stage and I'm getting ready to prepare for an upcoming on-campus interview. The position is a full-time community college asst prof position, teaching online courses. The on-campus interview will require me to conduct a 10-minute presentation on content I've created for online courses. I was wondering if you might have any advice about this process?

First, congratulations on the interview!  

Ten minutes isn’t a lot of time, so I’d suggest focusing on the narrative rather than the features.  The committee will see several presentations, and since they’ll have common elements, it will be easy for them all to sort of run together.  You need a good story.  What story do you want your demo to tell?

My personal fave is the autobiography of the professor as a learner.  “I used to do chat this way, but it became clear to me that doing it another way would help with depth of discussions.  Now I do this, and the results are much better.”  A story like that suggests not only that you’re technically fluent, but also that you’re a committed teacher and you have some self-awareness.  It gives the committee a glimpse of your philosophy of teaching, and it  gives you a coherent way to prioritize what to show.  

Alternately, you could try to show the student’s point of view.  What does a student in your online class experience?  What makes that experience better than a run of the mill online class?  It’s a bit less memorable, but it shows an awareness of the student experience and of your role in facilitating it.  And again, it gives you a coherent way to prioritize what to highlight.

What I absolutely would not do is an overview of the features of the course.  Highlight only those features that help you tell your story; save the rest for q-and-a.  If someone really wants to know what this button does when you click it, you can always get to that on request.  But if you come across as doing the standard software demo, heaven help you.

Participation is a risky call.  Experience tells me that demos in unfamiliar rooms never work; the projector fails, or something isn’t compatible with something else, or the flux capacitor is out of lithium, or whatever.  If you only have ten minutes, you don’t want to spend five of them wrestling with your laptop.  Putting together a live group experience in an unfamiliar setting when you’re stressed out already just strikes me as tempting fate.  It’s possible, I guess, but you should have a plan B to which you could switch quickly and seamlessly if you do it at all.

Good luck!

Wise and worldly readers, what would you suggest?  

Have a question?  Ask the Administrator at deandad (at) gmail (dot) com.

Program Note: Happy Thanksgiving!  The blog will be back on Monday the 26th.

So true about what can go wrong will. Not knowing just what you will demonstrate in your presentation, I suggest you run through it at home and at important points in the presentation, take screen shots, print them and be ready to give them to all on the committee.

Then, when you begin your presentation, if something goes wrong, just bring out the screen shots hand them out and continue.

When your presentation is over if it went right, hand out the screen shot copies, and leave them with the committee members.

I don't teach online so I don't know if this is feasible, but it works with slide presentations.

Good luck.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I have never seen a simulation of an on-line class, but I second DD's warning about doing some sort of meta-teaching process. I'm expecting the teaching demo to be just that, and always hope that I will get called on in an "active learning" classroom.

Sadly, it sounds like that is what they want in this case.

I wouldn't want a "demonstration", I'd want to be logged in as a student and see how it works! So I'd argue for the student view in DD's second suggestion, including a few wrong turns by the student. The latter gives you an opportunity to introduce a bit of "teaching philosophy" (DD's first suggestion) about why it is built the way it is.

But that is me. The "know your audience" rule applies here. Are they DL experts who never teach, or teachers who do only little (or no) teaching on line? Big difference!
I'd say that the most important thing is watching your time limit -- be sure you can finish your story in the 10 minutes...

I'm not sure what I would do in your situation, but if you have some nifty and engaging teaching exercises, run through one of them with the committee --
I would concur with both Dean Dad and Anonymous 7:24. A software demo might work for a group that's not familiar with online teaching, but heaven help you if they are.

Talk about how you build community in the class, how you build connection with your students, and maybe show screen shots. Those are valid questions in any classroom, but seem to be particularly sensitive in the online world. Oh, and have a good answer in your pocket about how you ensure academic integrity.

Best of luck!
I went through an almost identical interview a few years ago, and got the position. I'd advise checking the college's website for information on how they conduct online classes and what students can expect from them. My instituion actually has a rubric with which they assess new online courses, and seeing it in advance gave me a good sense of what to emphasize in my presentation.

I personally took them through a week in the class, emphasizing how the content was presented, what assignments I required of students and why, and how I evaluated them I wholeheartedly second the "story" approach--emphasize what has worked and what hasn't, what you changed and why. If you do anything innovative or different to facilitate learning, definitely emphasize it. For example, if you found a way around the problems of online group projects (Google+, wikis, whatever), make sure to emphasize how you developed it. I also second the recommendation that you pass out folders with screen shots, syllabi, graded student work, etc. Obviously don't overwhelm them with paper, but a sample could help.

Finally, if you're not already up on it, familarize yourself with the lingo and theory of online teaching. As virtual courses gain prominence and importance, search committees and especially Deans are going to expect you to be up on the latest developments. You probably already know the difference between synchronous and asynchronous interactions, for example, or how your courses would differ from MOOCs. if not, though, familiarize yourself, because you don't want to be a deer in the headlights if (when) they ask.

Sorry for the rambling, but hopefully this helps. Good luck!
Suggestion would be to review the Quality Matters Rubric and be familiar with it if you are not already. Courses that gain QM recognition at many colleges are using this as the gold standard for their online offerings.
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