Contributing a Verse
I was exposed to online learning shortly after I was hired at Finger Lake Community College. I needed to earn a Master’s degree before the end of my five-year probationary period was up, in order to earn my permanent appointment. I was the poster child for online education. I was working 60+ hours per week at FLCC, between my duties as both a teaching faculty member and the College’s athletic trainer. I was married with two young children at home. The nearest college that offered a Master’s degree in a field I was interested in was about an hour away. My wife and I shared, and still do share, one car. Thank goodness for a former colleague who earned his doctorate degree online.
I thoroughly enjoyed my online education experience and, when we began the process of offering online courses on campus I jumped at the chance. However, one of the downfalls of teaching, regardless of the setting, is falling into a routine with our classes. It is easy to neglect our online courses when we have so many other pressing responsibilities as faculty members, especially with online courses, where we can copy our course from one semester to the next.
While my schedule was often too hectic when I held duel responsibilities at FLCC, I thrived on knowing that every day was different. While I only focus on teaching now, it was a somewhat difficult transition for me. I loved the extra time with my family, especially as my children were entering high school and middle school, respectively, but I felt my work was repetitive. I missed those chances to teach my students about specific injuries in the athletic training room, where they could apply the knowledge gained in class to the “real world” that we preach so much about.
I knew I needed something different in my teaching, for my own professional wellness. The end result is a course called HPE 270: Fitness Assessment and Program Design. Students will learn how to complete baseline assessments for numerous areas of physical fitness and will then learn how to use those results to create a fitness plan specific to the needs of a client. After completing this course the students should be prepared to earn the designation of Certified Personal Trainer from the American College of Sport Medicine.
The course was designed with students from numerous degree areas in mind. By earning a nationally recognized certification, students can add to their credentials and can immediately seek employment in the exercise and fitness industry. For me, this course is a chance to get back to that combination of learning and application that I have missed since making the transition to full-time faculty. I can again work with students who will learn how to demonstrate basic techniques and can then apply them in client-specific simulated programs. I am eager to break out of the shell of my other online courses, using more of the technology available to conference with the students and to have them demonstrate appropriate techniques of the different fitness assessments and exercises.
I joke with my students that I would love to teach a class using nothing but song lyrics or movie quotes. I am sure many of you share the same sentiment, but Dead Poets’ Society, is one of my favorite movies for quoting. The process of designing this new course from scratch reminded me of Robin Williams’ character, Professor Keating, quoting Walt Whitman and discussing personal identity: “That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
I hope that my verse is one that allows me to use the successful learning experiences in this course to revise my other courses. I hope that my verse is one that allows me to continue to advocate for online learning and for finding innovative ways to design courses and to teach students. Most important, I hope my verse is one that allows my students to use the information I pass on so they can make a difference in their careers and in the lives of others.
Jeremy is a 2017 Open SUNY Online Teaching Ambassador.
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