Power of Connections, I've been giving a great deal of thought to the notion of teacher engagement (see here and here). As part of this reflecting process, I've been thinking about how course creation and delivery differ in online and face-to-face environments.
Specifically, it seems to me that we often fall prey ot what I call the "iceberg dilemma" when it comes to online design and instruction. This dilemma, I think, can be attributed to a fundamental difference/assumption between teaching face-to-face and online.
When we're preparing and teaching face-to-face courses, we generally look at the course content as a foundation for the actual course, but are keenly aware that this is only a point of departure. Once the content is prepared we, as instructors, must go in and present that content. We must also elaborate iteratively throughout the course of the curriculum based on feedback we receive from students, and work to connect students and information beyond the base content. Using my iceberg model, we realize that content, and even initial delivery, are only the tip of the iceberg. The real teaching engagement and learning happens beyond that (beneath the content surface).
While it certainly doesn't have to be that way, many of our models for online course design and delivery focus almost exclusively on content, or just the tip of the iceberg. We design our content and build it within a platform, and then we allow the platform to do the majority of the delivery. This is the majority of the course apart from managing assignments. In other words, there is little in-course iteration and sparse effort at student engagement through connection.
The realization I am coming to is that, in online learning, teacher engagement is what happens after the content is built and delivered (with exceptions like Laura Gibbs who build her content openly and engages even at that level). Again, it doesn't have to be that way but it seems to be the rule as opposed to the exception.
What excites me about Power of Connections is that we are going to be spending so much time "beyond the content," working on the part of the iceberg beneath the surface. I think this is where teacher engagement really happens (at least for me), and it's certainly where I'll have lots of fun.