EXPLORING ONLINE SPACE WITH DANNY BEDNAR

Danny Bednar (MA, PhD, Geography at Western University) is a Strategic Relations Policy Analyst at the Canadian Space Agency, co-author of the forthcoming book “For all Humankind: Untold Stories of how the Moon Landing Inspired the World”, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at Western where he has taught Geography 2090 Space Exploration since 2012.

Dr. Danny Bednar lecturing

This September, Danny launched the course online for the first time. We asked Danny a few questions to share his experience moving his course to the online learning environment.

Q: Why did you move Space Exploration to the online learning environment?

A: “Teaching is a passion of mine and I really feel ownership of this course even though I didn’t create it, my mentor Phil Stooke did. But, I was moving away to take an awesome full time job with the CSA, and I couldn’t give up the course. At the same time, I knew it would translate well to the online environment.”

Q: What was it like to move a Face-To-Face course online?

A: “One of the challenges was my experience as an online learner was a while ago and I knew the learning environment would have changed.  I leaned on colleagues who teach online and friends at the Centre for Teaching and Learning to help figure out what online learning looks like today and to get ideas for appropriate technology for my course.”

Q: What surprises you about teaching online?

A: “I am surprised how much I enjoy teaching online as a new challenge. The technology is easier to navigate than I thought.  I have the opportunity to get into things I always wanted to do, but didn’t have the time or the reason. Now, I’m getting used to speaking on camera and recording and editing podcasts.”

Q: What are your biggest challenges teaching online?

A: “Being able to be responsive to students. In a face-to-face class, it’s easier to answer questions right in the moment. To create that responsive environment on my OWL site, I have set up an AMA [Ask Me Anything] format, and every 2 weeks, I answer the questions by video.”

Q: What advice do you have for translating a course to the online environment?

A: “Keep it simple. I initially assumed that I needed all sorts of complex delivery methods, but at the end of the day settled on a consistent format each week, with a podcast, a virtual lecture, a reading, and a documentary. Simple can be effective.”

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