Naomi Hertzog is an Educator in the Vocational Education sector at RMIT University. Her background is in photography and she teaches into a fully online photography course. While Naomi is located in Queensland, her students are located all across Australia. There are challenges to teaching fully online, into an arts course, however Naomi is overcoming these challenges and doing some great work with her students.
Naomi arranged for her 100 students to participate in 21 Google Hangouts, over 2 days with only Naomi coordinating and managing the online meetings. I interviewed Naomi to get more insight into what she is doing and exactly how she is managing the course.
What are you teaching?
I’m teaching into the Photo-imaging program at RMIT. To date I have had wonderful success with students that go on to work at an international level, and I work with a great team of teaching staff.
What are you doing in your course?
I have taken a face to face class and converted it into an online course. The class environment worked well, however I wanted to find the holes in the classroom whereby it could be better supported in an online environment.
I planned 20 discrete Hangouts per week which I managed, they were run as study groups with just 5 students per group. In those Hangouts we review, discuss and dialogue about the assigned work in the course. The work is placed into online student journals so that the students can see each other’s work and discuss it.
What drives your passion for the course in an online environment?
Understanding more about the practice of photography is the beginning of a lifelong journey. It sets up the parameters in the working life, some of it is set up right in the lab, the rest of it is better served in an online environment where they will be working in the future.
I love to see the students’ light go on, it only works when they are connected to the course, for those students who are not engaging, they need a carrot and not a stick. I believe understanding ones practice and process is paramount.
What has been the biggest obstacle?
How can I modify and adapt and resolve technical issues. Overcoming student and staff technical issues needs resolution so the functionality of the team is important. User design expertise, project leaders, ID people, all talk to resolve and solve. There are always issues to resolve, and needing to answer them on my own is a great hindrance to projects like this.
We need to develop a culture of seriousness around online delivery. What does that mean? We need to take this more seriously to understand and make a commitment to online teaching. Unless we understand the obstacles it will reveal layers underneath, without support and help when hitting obstacles we will get stuck and not want, or be able to move forward.
The things that are working really well that are planned are working great. In the classroom my face to face time was limited, so what works well in the online environment is that students still gain knowledge, but they are now gaining it in a new and different way. This is more intense, once we get past the rush of it all, and they begin to engage with the content then we see great results.
The students are learning about their photography and they are learning about their particular aesthetic approach to practice. They are also learning about their conceptual approach, and more importantly that its OK to have flaws. All students have strengths and weaknesses, by working in an online community they can share those strengths and weaknesses.
How did you overcome your obstacles?
At the moment, I am putting a quiz in place, its a checklist to ensure students have completed the items required of them. This sounds like a simple task, but a day of work can go into this task to ensure students are on track and I address their needs so that their pathway to success is clear.