Thursday, June 16, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

I am preparing to teach my first online class next semester--which means that I have to go through the online training program that College of Western Idaho uses.  Teaching in a conventional classroom setting, I am not even slightly nervous or uncomfortable.  Teaching online is going to be a new experience for me, and right now, it's a bit scary.

The way that we teach have taught college is an echo of a strategy developed during the medieval period, when books were expensive and rare--and the lecturer read from what might have been the only medical book, or the only astronomy book, that the university owned.  Students took notes, becoming low quality copy machines.  We have improved the process a lot since then, but still, the way that traditional college classes are delivered is something that a lecturer at the University of Bologna in 1300, or Oxford in 1600, or Harvard in 1800, would still immediately recognize.  He would marvel at the technology in the classroom, at how cheap books are, and perhaps be distracted because there are women in the class.  But he would still recognize it as a lecture hall, and the methods would be at least vaguely similar.  Online instruction?  Brain explosion!

There are a lot of virtues to online instruction.  It saves gas and money, both for students and instructors.  It makes it possible for students to take classes from instructors who might otherwise not be available.  It may provide a superior environment for learning.  Some instructors and students think that it does; I am still a bit skeptical, but that's just because I'm a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to education.

Anyway, the online instruction training course is gobbling up lots of time.


  1. Wonderful new experience, Clayton. I am sure that it will be something that you can handle well. So, as your Mother, I know that you can do most anything you put your mind to do. Cheers!

  2. I haven't done any online teaching, but I did use an online tool for math homework in the last semester I taught. It was...weird. I would certainly have been swamped if I had to write out homework by hand, and then grade it by hand...but I'm not sure if I liked how the online stuff worked, either.

    If I had to guess, though, I'm fairly confident that I'd prefer one-on-one (or one-on-few) face-to-face tutoring over teaching, even teaching online. Finding the time and resources to set myself up so that I could do that, however, is a big question that I have no answers to, at least, not yet. (And debt is a major shadow over everything!)

    In any case, good luck with your teaching. I'm sure you'll do well!

  3. I've both taken and taught on-line courses. I liked neither experience.

    When teaching, one of the better bits of feedback is being able to tell when your students are "getting it" and that's impossible in a recorded class and nearly impossible over two-way videophone. It's far too tough trying to get the feedback from fidgeting or the uncomfortable unknowing looks that tell you you need to go over something again in a slightly different way for it to be understood. It's why even the monster classes have recitation sections: the lecturer just can't tell when students are getting the message.

    Perhaps it's different in subjects like history that are more rote, but when teaching math and engineering where the basic concepts will be reused in new ways the ability to see that students understand the rules and procedures that need to be adapted to solve problems is critical.

    Telepresense is a nice concept, and we use it daily in my work, but vastly over hyped. Even though my work group is spread across the country it makes a significant difference to get together every other year or so to have a big group face-to-face meeting. It definitely eases interactions and facilitates better interactions between individuals.