March 2015
ARTICLES
TESOL'S PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES OF ONLINE TEACHING CERTIFICATE PROGRAM: A VERY ENJOYABLE AND ENRICHING OPPORTUNITY
Robert Wachman, Notre Dame of Dadiangas University, General Santos City, Philippines

Main Text

Like many CALL enthusiasts, I’ve used software and the web in language teaching for years. I’ve also used course management systems like Blackboard as supplements. But I’ve never actually taught online. In January 2013, as I prepared to move to the Philippines, I decided I wanted to learn how.

I had heard about TESOL’s certificate program, Principles and Practices of Online Teaching, and decided to give it a try. At first, I enrolled only in the foundation course, the required first course for anyone wanting to pursue the certificate. After a few days of interacting with the instructor and classmates and reading and discussing content, I was hooked and opted to go for the certificate. This meant taking an additional five courses over a maximum period of 2 years: two specific language skill courses (of six offered), two “general online teaching” courses (of four), and the Certificate Completion Course at the end.

In my last 3 years of classroom ESL teaching, I had specialized in teaching listening and pronunciation. Hence, the content courses I selected were Teaching Listening Online and Teaching Speaking and Real-Time Communication Online. The general courses I chose were Designing Interactive Activities for the Web, and Creating and Using Multimedia for Online Instruction. I also decided to take the E-Commerce course so that I could learn the essentials of offering products and/or services online for a fee. A description of the whole program with links to all course descriptions, requirements, and application procedures may be found here.

Program Overview

Courses in the program are organized into modules. Each module contains clear instructions, information, activities with due dates, and numerous links to informational and interactive websites. In general, coursework consists of a lot of reading, listening to audio, and some video viewing, followed by reflection, discussion, and response using a similar variety of media—writing, audio recording, and video recording, as well as occasional live text, audio, or video chat. Studying and learning to use countless online tools and resources as well as how to build attractive, functional web pages to deliver instruction are also major components. Each course culminates in the creation of a project, created individually or occasionally in collaboration with one or more classmates. I found all of these activities to be highly enriching and enjoyable.

Highlights of My Experience, Course by Course

The Certificate Foundation Course was a good beginning, a survey of the lay of the land of online teaching and learning and an opportunity to become familiar with the Desire2Learn course management system as well as the structure of courses in the program. For the final project, we were encouraged to “work toward an item of immediate use to you and your students” (Emily Reynolds, Presenter). I created tutorial web pages to help my students learn to use ANVILL, a site I used as a supplement in my listening and pronunciation courses.

In Designing Interactive Activities for the Web, my second course, we had a lot of fun exploring a great variety of interactive tools. My final project for this course was the creation of a small interactive Wikispaces website. In keeping with my strong interest in teaching listening and pronunciation, it is titled Robert’s Interactive Listening and Pronunciation Center. You can take a look and try my activities by clicking on the site title.


My Interactive Activities Project

In my third course, Teaching Listening Online, we created our own digital audio recordings and podcasts and explored many listening skill development websites. In Module 2, three of us collaborated to produce a report in which we described, evaluated, and ranked 10 listening websites. This and two other reports described below are available for download here. Our three favorite sites were English Listening, Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab, and elllo. My final project for this course consisted of two web pages, one with print resources and links for teaching listening and the other a lesson plan for teaching syllable stress.

In Teaching Speaking and Real-Time Communication Online, my fourth course, we tried a variety of online applications for real-time text, audio, and video communication, including Skype, Yahoo Messenger, and Google Hangouts. For voice recording-based activities, we tried VoiceThread, Vocaroo, and Voxopop. And for web conferencing, we tried tools including AnyMeeting, AdobeConnect, FuzeMeeting, and GoToMeeting. My two classmates from the listening course and I collaborated again to produce two comparative guides—one on voice recording tools and one on web conferencing tools—both available here. Another classmate produced a great list of suggested language development uses of real-time communication tools, which she has generously agreed to share as well.

I next took E-Commerce for Teachers and Administrators, an extra course for me, beyond the number needed to earn the certificate. In this course, five of us studied the components required and suggested steps for setting up an e-commerce business, possible information flows, laws and regulations, how to make sites attractive and easy to use, and how to optimize a site so it will be found by search engines. We also studied the selection and purchase of domain names and surveyed companies that provide webhosting, payment gateways, and shopping cart services. Several of us actually purchased domain names for possible future businesses. The final task of this course was to make a list of “next steps I will take to prepare my website and e-commerce business,” very useful down the road, as it will be some time before I have a chance to pursue this avenue.


Used with permission.

My final elective course toward the certificate was Creating and Using Multimedia for Online Instruction. One highlight was learning how to use a new free online digital audio recording tool, AudioBoom (called AudioBoo during the course). You can listen to my recording here, create an account, and add a comment if you like. I also improved my audio editing ability in Audacity and my photo editing in GraphicConverter, putting my head on an image of Superman for fun. For my final project I used a free demo download of Camtasia to make my first screencast using this much more flexible and powerful tool than the free ones I had previously tried. It demonstrates how to set up, launch, and end a private Google Hangout On Air. Though it’s far from perfect, you are welcome to take a look with this YouTube link.

The final course in the program is the Certificate Completion Course: a review of online learning and teaching, strategies for promoting student participation and collaboration, curriculum conversion, assessment, and other topics. Two of special interest to me were instructional design (ID) and blended learning. In ID, we discussed the need to maintain sound pedagogy as the highest priority. As George Siemens says, “ID is the process whereby learning, not technology, is kept at the center of elearning development” (Siemens, 2002). After reading Dziuban, Hartman, and Moskal (2004) on blended learning, I wrote in a response assignment:

Online and blended instruction have the potential to transform instruction and learning, to make instruction more student-centered, make students more actively engaged and responsible for their own learning, make them more interactive—through increased requirements for communication with the instructor, with other students, with the content, and with outside resources. Careful planning and instructional design can increase student motivation and reward by engaging them in interesting content, reflection, discussion and creative projects.

This describes well my experience of TESOL’s Principles and Practices of Online Teaching Certificate Program. The single factor that stands out in my experience of this program is increased enjoyment and learning that came through frequent discussion and collaboration with peers.

Evaluative Conclusion

Courses were replete with engaging topics of high interest taught by knowledgeable, experienced, enthusiastic, and highly supportive faculty. Study was composed of a blend of theory and application with emphasis on the latter. Not only did we study and discuss “best practices” in web page design and course structure, in most courses, we experienced them. In addition to valuable information, familiarity with a wide variety of digital tools and online resources, increased skill in design of online teaching and learning activities, a bonus outcome I never would have imagined is having a lasting network of colleagues I can bounce ideas off and consult for suggestions as I make my way in this still mostly unfamiliar territory of online and blended learning.

I asked my classmates in the Certificate Completion Course for their “quick take on elements of the program most valuable to [them].” You can read their responses here.

For more information about the certificate program, contact the TESOL Education Programs Department, edprograms@tesol.org.

References

Dziuban, C., Hartman, J., & Moskal, P. (2004). Blended learning. Educause Center for Applied Research, Research Bulletin, 2004(7). Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/blended-learning

Siemens, G. (2002, September 30). Instructional design in elearning. elearnspace: everything elearning. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/InstructionalDesign.htm

[Note: Not currently accessible. A video interview with George Siemens may be found at http://www.olnet.org/content/george-siemens.]


Robert Wachman has been a CALL enthusiast for more than 25 years. He was a member of the development team for the popular software Live Action English Interactive, served on the CALL-IS steering committee in the early 1990s, and helped launch CATESOL’s Technology Enhanced Language Learning Interest Group. Robert received his MAT in ESOL from the School for International Training in Vermont and taught ESL for 30 years in community colleges and adult schools in California, retiring as a professor of ESL at Yuba College in 2010. In the 1980s, he worked for 3 years as a supervisor and trainer of ESL teachers in the Philippines and currently teaches a graduate course in ESL teacher education there.