I think that the most rewording aspect in teaching is my own learning, together with students. Such learning occurs on various levels — from the course planning and preparation of the learning materials and throughout the teaching process in the classroom. Due to the nature of the subject that I teach, that is, visual communication and the interpretation of the visual, there is always something new to discover together with students, even using the same image or the same activity in several courses. It is so fascinating that while teaching with and about visuals, you can never get bored.
Just yesterday, I had the last class of an intensive one-week summer school course in visual communication, which I was co-teaching with my colleague, Rasa Zakeviciute. This was the first time we were teaching together in an online environment. What is more, we not only designed a completely new course, but we also designed it especially for an online teaching mode. In this sense, we were more lucky than many of our colleagues, who, under pressure of time (and often without sufficient knowledge and experience) moved their face-to-face courses online. We could plan the course from the start as a fully online experience.
We had two main goals when we were planning the ‘Visual Communication as a Way to Improve Working Life Skills’ course. The first one, built on the approach we have already implemented in the ‘Visual Research Methods’ courses, that is of visual pedagogy. The other was to create a balance between synchronous and asynchronous teaching, that is, to constantly keep in mind that we are planning an online course, not a face-to-face one (an aspect of which many teachers do not think). For that reason, students received all the learning material in a form of video-lectures, other videos and readings as well as individual assignments and group work. Thus, the two-hour online classes per day could have been devoted solely to activities and discussions, based on the learning material (which students could have explored beforehand in their own peace). That kind of approach can especially benefit students of various linguistic backgrounds (they can use dictionaries, or listen to lectures several times), from different geographical locations (we worked between time-zones of 8 or even 11 hours of time difference) and busy with other commitments (they can schedule their study time).
In this course, we had a really great group of students. It was so rewarding to work with all of them. Their ideas and ‘ways of seeing’ enriched my experience as a teacher and visual scholar. We also had fun all together in the course. The online teaching is any worse from the face-to-face classroom. Actually, when well planned (and with an intention for good online teaching), it can be a truly rewarding learning experience, both for students and for their teachers.