This summer I had the privilege of organizing and attending a Summer Online Writing Institute here at my two-year regional campus. The workshop, geared to faculty who teach writing online, was facilitated by Dr. Scott Warnock 1. This institute’s usefulness is a prime example of why I so enjoy conferences and professional development events that aren’t necessarily specific to libraries.
Some of the workshop’s substantial conversations revolved around responding to student writing. From the English faculty side, this is a huge issue because responding to student work when there’s no face-to-face classroom experience can be burdensome. As an instruction librarian who serves online students I’ve also been concerned with the idea of transactional distance, or “the gap of understanding and communication between the teachers and learners caused by geographic distance.”2 Anyone who’s been a part of an online classroom understands this gap all too well.
Thinking about responding to students like an instructor and thinking about transactional distance like a librarian have resulted in my successful piloting and use of Screencast-O-Matic for asynchronous student research assistance. As part of the paper drafting process, students send me drafts, works cited pages, and questions about research. Screencast-O-Matic allows for a sort of asynchronous conference transaction, complete with screencasting, audio voice over, and webcam. The videos I make are short, and students can play them over and over if I’m demonstrating a research strategy that’s particularly challenging.
I’ve always found it more difficult to build rapport with online students than face-to-face ones, and I’ve been experimenting with many technologies over the past several years to bridge transactional distance and respond to/interact with students. And when technology enables pedagogy as Screencast-O-Matic does, you know you’re onto something.
1. Warnock, Scott. Teaching Writing Online: How and Why. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2009.
2. Michael Moore and Greg Kearsley, Distance Education: A Systems View (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1996), 223.
University of Cincinnati, Clermont College