By Lisa Sehannie
Faculty Member, Information Technology at American Public University
A large number of my students are considered to be non-traditional students. For many of them, I am part of their first experience in college or perhaps a return to college after being gone for many years. On top of this, they are participating in a new learning environment — the online world.
My role is to educate students on the course material, but goes far beyond teaching the curriculum. Part of my job is to help students to overcome nervousness and self-doubt, build their confidence, and guide them in how to be successful in the online classroom. The skills they acquire and the confidence I help them build will serve them in their present and future careers as well.
Introducing real world examples into the course material is one way to help students to develop confidence. Even the simplest of examples can help students. For example, in an introductory computer course I have asked students to discuss the computers they use in their everyday lives, such as ATM machines, cell phones, and even their cars. All of these ideas help students understand that they already use computer technology. Examples and analogies allow students to better relate to and understand the material. This also allows me as an instructor to present complex ideas in a much simpler manner.
Along with presenting real world examples, I introduce technology concepts that students may already be familiar with and then apply them to the course material. For example, I ask my students if anyone has heard of a “Smart House?” In this discussion, I introduce a house that can be controlled by a smart phone; the air conditioner or central heating, for example, can be controlled by thea touch on a cell phone. Again, this simple example allows students to understand some everyday uses of computers and helps them understand the material a little easier.
One class I teach frequently is Microsoft Excel. Many students may never have used Excel before, but they probably do have experience using a calculator. I explain to students that Excel is an electronic way to perform calculations, such as addition and multiplication. I also expand on this process by asking students to share pros and cons of doing this work electronically vs. manually. This gives students an opportunity to think about technology and ways it can enhance our lives.
College-level learning, about technology or any other subject, can be daunting. But, with a little support from their instructors, most students can overcome the challenges and gain the knowledge and understanding that will help them in their lifelong endeavors. For me, the use of analogies and real world examples is a great way to help students find the path to success.
About the Author:
Lisa Sehannie has earned both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Science Degree in Information Systems and Computer Technology from Kennesaw State University. She has worked in the Information Technology Industry for over eight years. Her experience was in a university environment, and dealt with the management of computer technology and outreach programs for an Admissions Office. In addition to this work experience in the field, she has also taught in the field of Information Technology for over 5 years, including 3 years of distance education teaching.