Me, put a class online? If I can do it, you can too!

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It starts with a good idea

Imagine having a great idea for an online workshop. Not only is the content important and interesting information, it will also likely generate some additional funds.  This was my situation. I had been delivering a live workshop about Colorado law, more specifically the mental health statute, and it's impact on the practice of psychotherapy. I began to play with the idea of putting this material online and do away with the live workshops.  I had several motivation factors to encourage me to get this done. First, there was a ready-made market. Licensed as well as unlicensed Colorado psychotherapists have to take a jurisprudence workshop and/or an exam as part of the licensing or registration process. Second, the state regulatory board had authorized a certain of workshop providers and there was only one other person offering an online version of the workshop material.  As a result, I had little competition for my market (the computer savvy psychotherapist). Third, getting the workshop online would be good practice for my faculty responsibilities in teaching.  One of our departmental goals is for faculty to become more technology adept. This project would definitely help me become a little more computer literate. Fourth, I am a student at heart and love to learn. Lastly, everybody's doing this right? Everybody's putting something on the web.  Ok, maybe not everybody, but more and more professionals are providing instruction and training over the web as an alternative to the traditional face to face meeting or correspondence course. I decided it was time to try and get up to speed with the rest of the world.

My first step was to sign up for a webct course.  This can't be too hard I thought. I get to my email without too much trouble and like surfing the net. The first hour went smoothly.  We did some simple things like getting onto the web and looking at current online courses by other faculty. In my head I am thinking, "This isn't so bad."  Then we started to do more complicated things for me: creating html files, editing html files, creating a homepage, selecting and changing backgrounds, selecting "gif" files, and unzipping and zipping files. As it got more and more complex, I got more and more confused and intimidated. I felt like I had  entered a whole new world with a new and strange language. It is a different culture. It holds a different philosophy about how to communicate and share knowledge with others. As we worked through the rest of the afternoon I could feel the psychological struggle set in. 

Approach-avoidance sets in

In the psychological literature Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) is credited with being one of the first persons to classify conflicts by type (Benjamin, Hopkins, & Nation, 1990).  One of the types is the approach-avoidance conflict. It is when a person is concurrently drawn to and repelled by the same activity, event or object. The attraction and repulsion or aversion levels are equal in strength. An example of this is when my 21 month old son, who sees a bug on the sidewalk, is drawn to touch it but at the same time is scared.  His behavior alternates between bending down to touch the bug, laughing, giggling and waving his arms with excitement and backing away from the bug because he is fearful and uncertain. I imagine in his mind there is some type of conversation like "I really want to touch this thing; but oh, no I don't!"

This is how I felt about getting my workshop online.  I would sit down on the computer to work on it because I was drawn to the activity for the reasons I previously mentioned, but then I would find anything and everything else to do on the computer--answer email, work on a letter, or check the stock market because I was intimidated by the process of getting this course online. It felt crazy.

Breaking through the conflict

Several steps helped me break through the approach-avoidance conflict. Emotions and cognitions influence or drive motivation.  My emotions were fear or anxiety when I thought about sitting down and working on my workshop. So the first thing I needed to do was to uncover what I was saying to myself that prompted or promoted my anxiety. It was relatively simple, "Sharon, you can't do this. You're not computer literate enough. Only the 'techies' can do something like put a whole course or workshop online." Second, I had to decide what I was saying to myself was false and that if others, like myself can do it, I can too.  In essence I had to change what I was saying to myself so that I stopped creating my own anxiety. Third, I found someone who could teach me webct from my learning style and talk to me in my limited knowledge of "online lingo." I found this to be as critical as the first two steps. "Techies" can start on a stream of conversation, not look back nor recognized the glazed look in the "not so techie" person's eyes.  Fourth, I found that using a transcription of my workshop made it easier to build the individual files that were the basis and foundation of my workshop.  Fifth, don't worry about bells and whistles the first time around. You and I are trying to get the basics down first. You can put those in later if you need it. Sixth, I found an editor who knew how to maneuver in webct to clean up my product. This was helpful because I am not a detailed person and the product needed to be readable and understandable.


Bottom line, if I can do this you can too.  Don't let your fear or anxiety stop you from getting something online.  I found this accomplishment rewarding and it has actually prompted me to want to do online course work. 


Benjamin, L.T., Hopkins, J. R. & Nation, J.R. (1990).  Psychology (2nd edition). New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

Critical Reviews

Critic D

It was heartening to hear a testimonial--if she could add some more detail about breaking through the conflict I think it would give some more clues to the reluctant or anxious; also she said, "It holds a different philosophy about how to communicate and share knowledge with others." I wish she would expand on that because I think the reluctance to do online education is a belief or insistence that one cannot effectively communicate without face-to-face contact. 

Needs some careful editing.

Critic GG

Critic QQQ

This is an interesting article and one that might have potential for being helpful to others trying to move to online teaching.  The message is certainly one of encouragement.  However, the actual article is really quite superficial.  The approach taken by the author is not well described.  I was surprised at the almost dismissive tone in which the author went from establishing the problem (how to get the work done) to solving the problem (the author found someone to teach her with her learning style).  

In addition, the article is rather poorly written and too weak to be published as it currently stands.  I believe that if the author had really outlined the steps needed for her to get her online course ready and had done it in some detail, then this article might be useful.  As it now stands it is only at the level of a school newspaper piece.