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.