16 Creative Online Educators You Should Follow on Twitter Right Now

On November 1 at 4:00pm Eastern, we will be joined at UMW for a panel discussion about “Ethical Online Learning” by Kate Bowles, Alan Levine, Sean Michael Morris, and Liz Losh. RSVP here (not required), and if you can’t make it in person, watch the livestream and join us on the backchannel via #DoOO.

Online teaching is incredibly mundane. Or so it would seem given how infrequently people wave the banner of online teaching or champion online teachers. Much of the labor of online teaching is invisible. And most traditional approaches to online course design make teachers into mere facilitators or content providers, reducing teachers to bits.

My first forays into hybrid teaching were with one of my pedagogical mentors, R L Widmann, whom I began working with in 2001 to help develop her Virtual Shakespeare course. Because of my work with R L, my assumption has always been that online teaching can (and even should) be collaborative. (In 2015, we turned that course into a hybrid MOOC with on-ground components and over 20,000 students.)

When I started teaching fully online courses in 2007, I worked for Sean Michael Morris, who was Chair (at the time) of the English department for CCCOnline, the provider of online courses for the Community Colleges of Colorado. I did the thankless, and not altogether honorable, work of designing stock composition courses. About 30 – 50 sections of the courses I designed were “duped” and offered each term. 9 years later, the institution has only barely revised the courses (mostly to remove flexibility and add sterner instructions for students).

Years after I stopped working for CCCOnline, I’d still receive e-mails from students taking the courses, because teachers given a shell I’d designed would fail to update their instructor page, and my personal information would be left in the course. This happened many many times. Because of a very flawed system, 100s (and possibly 1000s) of students have believed I was their online teacher at an institution I had left many years before. The identity (and humanity) of the teachers of these courses mattered so little to everyone involved that this instructor page and its contents had grown vestigial. I suspect I’d still be receiving e-mails from CCCOnline students if I hadn’t obliterated the address I’d used on that page.

And, sadly, the most common e-mail I’d get from these students was concern about my absence from their course. The teacher hadn’t shown up to discussions or hadn’t shown up to grade student work, and because they also hadn’t shown up to edit their instructor information page, it was my absence that was felt by the students. I don’t begrudge these teachers. When I was teaching for CCCOnline, I was a road warrior adjunct, working at 4 institutions, teaching up to 9 courses per term. Even I sometimes forgot who I was. The problem was the precarious labor system (and bad instructional design decisions) that made all of this go.

Sean Michael Morris taught me how to teach online. And, while he worked as a department chair, Sean fought hard against the precarious labor system and the bad instructional design decisions being made (and still being made) at CCCOnline. He also helped me understand how to bring my full self to the work of teaching online. Sean has always said that he hates the internet, and this is also what makes him an excellent online teacher. He understands the limitations of the LMS and the complexities of digital identity, so he’s able to thoughtfully and compassionately navigate the work of teaching and learning online. Sean is, quite easily, the best online teacher I have known.

In preparing for DTLT’s upcoming panel at UMW about “Ethical Online Learning,” I wanted to find a way to champion more online teachers. The work of teaching online can be incredibly isolating, so I also wanted to give online teachers a list of people they could connect with. I started by putting the question to Twitter.

Almost immediately, I got an important question that helped me define the parameters for the list I’ve made here.

What I’ve assembled are 15 online teachers active on Twitter who have inspired me (presented here in no particular order). I’ve also gathered a much longer list of crowd-sourced suggestions. Many of these are fully online teachers. Some teach courses of 25 students. Some teach to thousands. Some write about online learning in critical ways. Some are experimenting at the edge of on-ground and online learning. Some are online learners who have made their learning visible in ways that also makes them teachers.

1. Sean Michael Morris (@slamteacher)

2. Laura Gibbs (@OnlineCrsLady)

3. Al Filreis (@afilreis)

4. Maha Bali (@Bali_Maha)

5. Ana Salter (@AnaSalter)

6. Alan Levine (@cogdog)

7. Kathi Inman Berens (@kathiiberens)

8. Dave Cormier (@davecormier)

9. Cathy N. Davidson (@CathyNDavidson)

1o. Donna Murdoch (@donnamurdoch)

11. Michelle Pacansky-Brock (@brocansky)

12. Howard Rheingold (@hrheingold)

13. Steve Greenlaw (@sgreenla)

14. Martha Burtis (@mburtis)

15. George Veletsianos (@veletsianos)

Finally, one more extra special shout out to my dad, who teaches Psychology courses online for CCCOnline. He has always been one of my pedagogical models. He taught me that I wanted to teach. And I taught him right back. <3

16. Joe Stommel (@JoeStommel)

Last, but certainly not least, the dozens of teachers also championed on Twitter in response to my call, many of whom I have admired for years and others I have only just discovered. It’s an amazing list of thoughtful, critical educators and technologists: @bonstewart @lizlosh @plowenthal @jgmac1106 @hypervisible @textpotential @profjuliette @Lorarts @KateMfD @profesor_curtis @GardnerCampbell @koutropoulos @rjhogue @tedmitew @CL_Moore @ReneeMiddlemost @amcollier @katiedigc @travisaholland @derekbruff @harmonygritz @kthompso @LisaMLane @mrkrndvs @johnjohnston @adamprocter @BryanMMathers @epilepticrabbit @krisshaffer @eylanezekiel @adelinekoh @iamjessklein @wiobyrne @oliverquinlan @mesterman @robert_schuetz @katrinamwehr @mizuko @MiaZamoraPhD @jenebbeler @jimgroom @harmonygritz @Jonthan_Worth @jadedid @LizFalconer80 @Chris_Friend @alexpickett

And I am certain there are many many more. These lists are nowhere near to complete (or even representative). Add the online teachers who have inspired you in the comments below, including folks that aren’t active on Twitter.